March 2010: Publisher’s Comments

During and after the Norwood Sorrento’s-Greater Cincinnati Softball Hall of Fame banquet each year, one of the most commonly asked questions by some of the old-timers whose teams won or at least competed for men’s national titles at the top level of the game is whether Greater Cincinnati teams can ever achieve such notoriety again.

And that’s an understandable question.  After all, area teams won nine out of the first eleven ASA Men’s Major National Championships from 1953 through 1963.  And players from these teams take great pride in their accomplishments and wonder why the next generation hasn’t been so successful in carrying on the tradition they began.

In the seventies, a handful of local teams were in the hunt.  Century Tire finished 4th in the 1971 ASA Nationals.  The Rolling Hills Lakers and Greater Cincinnati Sports each managed a 3rd place finish in the USSSA Men’s Major World Series in 1972 and 1977, respectively.

The landscape began to cloud up in the late seventies and in the eighties when ASA created a “Super Major” division – and USSSA both a “Major” and “AA” program – for the big money teams.  Now for a “purist” like myself, who has challenged the credibility, integrity and very existence of these programs that have allowed unlimited, nationwide recruiting and have reeked of steroids, the outrageous influence of money, and unsavory relationships with the bat companies and national associations, you have to draw a line somewhere.  And if you draw it below the aforementioned programs, then certainly VIP’s 1989 U-Trip “A” World championship and Watanabe Optical’s 5th place finish in the ASA “Major” Nationals deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the accomplishments of early national championship teams of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, along with the success of Century Tire, the Lakers and GCS of the ‘70’s.  Albeit, with an asterisk.

One could argue that if teams were limited to state-wide or metro area-type recruiting and were prohibited from paying their players, that even today the Greater Cincinnati area might be putting one of the best teams in the nation on the field in Blitz/Watanabe.  But being successful at the “B” level somehow just isn’t going to satisfy the hope of area softball legends that someday Greater Cincinnati will reclaim what once seemed a birthright – national prominence at the highest level.

But just for the sake of discussion, let’s explore what it might take to for a Greater Cincinnati team to be competitive again, at least at the “A” level, if not the “Major.”

Probably no two people are better equipped to answer such a question than Blitz/Watanabe manager Terry Walton and Greater Cincinnati resident Larry Quartuccio, manager of two-time USSSA “A” World Champion Jean Shoppe/Chaneys/Easton/Sports55.

“We have the players in the city right now to compete at that level, but it’s difficult to get them on the same team,” points out Walton.  “Obviously, the issue is sponsors.  Right now, guys go outside the area to play on teams that give sweeter deals.

“Imagine Brad Reckart, Shane Hatfield, Shane Spicer, Ricky Baker, Tim Cocco, and Brian Wegman on the same team,” says Walton.  “All those guys are from Greater Cincinnati.  Fill that lineup out with the best players out of Cincinnati, and you could compete with the top teams in the country, including Jean Shoppe and GTL, which were the best ‘A’ teams in the nation last year.”

Quartuccio agrees.  “There’s no doubt about it, you could put together a great team right here in Cincinnati.  I have four players from rght here, including Reckart,  Hatfield, Spicer and Cocco.  Blitz already has Jimmy Carter, who could play anywhere, and Jason Roesch.”

Quartuccio wouldn’t disclose the details of his own team’s budget, but says it would take a “minimum of $80,000” to sponsor a competitive “A” team.

“A lot of it is travel costs, and players are getting ‘weekend money,’” says Quartuccio.

Jean Shoppe spends about an average of between $8,500 to $10,000 a weekend, including “weekend money,” according to Quartuccio.  But there are weekends that cost as much as $15,000.  One of those was the WSL World in Panama City, which Jean Shoppe was forced to drop from its schedule due to the cost of rooms and travel.

The team maintains a strict budget.  “We only pay for players and coaches and put three guys in a car, and players have to share a room.  There are teams that spend more than I do, but you have to be a penny-pincher if you want to get to the highest level and spend the least amount of money.”

Players that want to take their wives get money for one third the cost of a rental car and half the cost of a room, he says.

One way that Walton says could instantly help make tri-state teams more competitive nationally would be to use the USSSA Major Player List to spread out the talent.

“If you used the list to break the Major teams up and allowed only three or four of their players on a team, it would level things out and be more interesting every weekend,” says Walton.  “Right now, you have to get used to the fact that 98 percent of the time, either Resmondo or Dan Smith is going to win.”


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Posted by on Apr 17 2010.
Filed under Mark Linnemann.
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