2000 Sponsor: John Lilly

John Lilly

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John Lilly lent his name and financial support to the best softball team Illinois has ever produced. Though Lilly Air Systems played in an era before technology forever altered the power hitting game, no other team in Illinois history has crafted a pedigree that compares. Lilly Air Systems put Illinois softball on the national map.

In 1978, John had the simple but ambitious goal of making Lilly Air Systems the best team it could be. By the early-80s, they were defeating the best teams of the era, teams like Howard’s Furniture, Jerry’s Catering, Elite Coatings, Campbell’s Carpets and Steele’s.

Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame inductees Ron Olesiak, Benny Holt and Al Van Gampler played for Lilly’s, as did Wisconsin USSSA Hall of Fame inductees Phil Higgins and Ron Donaski. Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame inductee Pete Williams was their manager.

Before disbanding in 1986, Lilly’s would win three USSSA Major NIT Championships, compete in six consecutive USSSA World Tournaments and bow out with the 1986 Illinois Class A State Championship. In 1985, Lilly’s finished third at the USSSA Super Majors, beating both Steele’s and Howard’s in the process. Finally, in 1984, Lilly’s captured the National Major Title from that other softball organization.

2000 Sponsor: Don Daschka

Don Daschka

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Don Daschka sponsored his first softball team in the late 60s, and many things about softball have changed since. What never changed, however, was Daschka’s affection for and commitment to the people who played on his teams.

Over some 30 years, the owner of Victor Drugs in Chester, Illinois sponsored dozens of teams, ranging from local league teams to State champs. From 1986 through 1998, Daschka’s Renegades Class C Men’s tournament team compiled a combined record of 555 wins and 163 losses, winning 11 consecutive league titles and making 15 consecutive USSSA Divisional appearances. His Men’s Master’s teams won two AAA State championships and were runners-up once.

From 1980 through 1984, his Victor Drugs “VD Girls” team won several dozen tournament trophies and were a power in local league play in the Chester and Carbondale areas.

Daschka, who played softball for 20 years, never forgot what it was like to field a team and have to go out and find a sponsor.

His generosity has earned him the respect and affection of many players, yet he sees fit to thank them for the pleasure they have brought him through the years.

“They don’t understand that, but it’s true,” Daschka said of the joy his teams brought him.