Eric Weller played primarily basketball during high school and college and got into competitive volleyball in his 30s. It was not until his late 30s that he discovered 12-inch softball. He played, managed and sponsored in competitive softball beginning in 2002, eventually putting together a top-rated C team called Rope Club. Rope Club began playing up at the B level in Illinois to find greater competition, eventually playing NITs out-of-state as well.
In 2005, KA Softball was pushed to A and needed to play a minimum of four Major NITs before filing an appeal to drop to B. Weller stepped in to help sponsor the team to travel to the required tournaments in Indiana and Texas. Weller continued to help the team through 2007 before taking the reins on his own B team. Rope Club, later renamed EWS, made a name for themselves in Illinois and, more importantly, across the country as they played a Major NIT schedule from 2008 through 2011.
Rope Club placed third in the A World in 2008 as a B team. EWS placed well in Major NITs during those years, finishing second in 2010 at Major NITs in Nashville (Music City NIT) and Columbus, Indiana. EWS won the A Conference Championship in 2010 and placed fourth at the A World in 2011. They also qualified for the Major World Series in 2010 and 2011. EWS placed third in points in the conference in 2010 as a B team.
Weller recalls that the real joy over the years was taking primarily locally-rostered teams from the area and competing against the very best teams from around the country. The budget for the teams was lower and most times the players would drive to the tournaments, often sleeping three, sometimes four, to a room on the road.
The opponents often had nationally-known players. The team always took a certain pride and got a huge emotional reward out of being a part of the competitive environment, proving that it belonged.
Winning is great, but the camaraderie and friendships developed over the years was an even greater part of the competition. Eric’s best memory is of the Major Dual NIT event in 2010. As an unknown B team, EWS played Resmondo, who was the defending Major World Series champion. EWS pulled off the impossible, giving Resmondo’s season a bad start by beating them on a walk-off two-run home run. That was the most exciting game and the team had a grand time laughing and enjoying that accomplishment. Winning the 2010 Conference A Championship was the most rewarding, but the exhilaration of beating Resmondo was impossible to top.
Being inducted into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame must be right up there with all Eric Weller’s accomplishments. Thank you for all your support and welcome into the Illinois USSSA Hall of Fame.