Within several years of opening his sporting goods business in Peoria in 1984, Jim Fox and his buddy Myron Schroeder were making plans to form and sponsor a Men’s 40 & Over team to compete in the 1988 Men’s Master’s Nationals in Louisiana.
They didn’t realize it at the time, as they sat on a bench in Bartonville’s Alpha Park, but they were laying the ground work for the creation of the Illinois USSSA’s Master’s Program.
Over the winter of 1987-88, Fox, whose regular job was with the CILCO electric cooperative, and Schroeder put together a team of “old-timers” Fox agreed to sponsor it and Fox’s Sports Center was born.
That first season, the team competed against mostly younger teams in an effort to prepare for the Master’s World Tournament in Carencro, Louisiana. They also spent much of the summer on the phone, seeking men’s 40 and older teams to compete against. Six teams joined them in the first ever Illinois USSSA Master’s State Tournament. Fox’s won that inaugural event, defeating Quincy Bud Light.
That September in Louisiana, Fox’s became Illinois’ first-ever participant in the USSSA Master’s World. They soon became the talk of the 76-team tournament, defeating the defending World champions, the #1 ranked South Carolina Thunderbirds. Fox’s also beat New Mexico, New York and Georgia before finishing tied for 13th place.
Fox’s went on to play in eight more USSSA Master’s Worlds and were Illinois USSSA Master’s champs four times. In 1991 and 1992, Fox’s also won the USSSA Men’s 35 & Over State Titles as well.
A total of twelve teams with the Fox’s Sports name on their uniforms have competed in USSSA World Tournaments, with one World Title and seven State Championships.
Jim Fox’s generosity wasn’t limited to adult softball, however. When Schroeder needed a sponsor for his entry into the USSSA 15 & Under Boy’s Slow Pitch World in Milwaukee in 1990, Fox stepped forward. That team, the smallest in a 26-team field, won the 1990 15 & Under World with a 14-13 extra inning victory over Georgia.
“Jim has not only provided me with opportunities to find success on the ball diamond,” Schroeder said. “But countless youth and veteran participants as well.”