DAYTON — For Beavercreek’s George Flake, Bellbrook’s Mike George and Fairborn Church League founder Tracy Hall, of Medway, the three men had spent years either playing the game they so loved, officiating the games, or organizing them from behind the scenes.
During the annual Legends of the Game softball tournament at Kettering Field, the three area softball influences were recognized along with four others as the 13th class of Legends of the Game.
Flake, Hall and George were recognized along with Curt Roach of DeGraff, Bob Kender and Donnie Brewer of Dayton, and longtime sponsor Dr. John Urse of Orthopedic Associates as the 2018 class of softball legends. That brings the total up to 77 Legends who have been recognized for their efforts. The inaugural class was recognized in 2006.
“Today is a chance to say ‘thank you’ to these Southwest Ohio softball legends and to celebrate their contributions to the game,” USSSA Dayton organizer Scott Kuhnen said. “Each of these softball legends has contributed in ways large and small to the game, and we appreciate all they have done.”
Each of the local legends appeared to be humbled by the recognition.
Flake appeared flattered that his peers would recognize him for all the tireless nights he spent organizing area softball tournaments behind the scenes.
“Time flies! I started scheduling events in 1995, I guess it’s time for me to get my summers back,” he said with a smile. “Scheduling is a great opportunity for someone to get out and meet people at the tournaments and to enjoy the game. You’d be surprised that you can make a little extra money doing this. … Being retired, I was free most nights, and so I started umpiring. Then they asked me if I’d like to schedule games too. A few years later, a fastpitch guy asked me to schedule his tournaments at Rotary Park. And those really got big!”
Flake said it wasn’t until this past year that he started to step away from the scheduling part of the game.
“I’m thankful to everybody who has been a part of this,” George said. “John Urse (of Orthopedic Associates, and a fellow Legends selection) is a good friend of mine. In fact, he’s my surgeon! It was nice to see guys in the crowd whom I’d played softball with for forever … we were pretty good in our day.”
Hall had fans and admirers on hand from his hometown of Medway, from the St. Mark’s Episcopal softball team of which he was a former player and now a coach, and from the Fairborn Church Leagues that he helped to form. They erected a small shade tent behind the Diamond 19 backstop to witness the Legends of the Game festivities in relative shady comfort.
“For years, I’d meet these guys from the Dayton Legends Softball Club, and they’d assume I already was a Legends of the Game inductee,” laughed Hall. “I do it because I love it. Tuesdays and Thursday nights, I’m out at the Fairfield Park. if I had a hobby, other than the motorcycle riding with my wife Barb, this is it.
“There’s no better recognition than to get it from the guys you’d played with and against for years,” Hall said. “This really means a lot.”
Scott Kuhnen of the Dayton chapter of the United States Specialty Sports Association served as emcee for the event. He and co-tournament director Eric Walters presented each Legends recipient with a plaque, a laminated program commemorating the event, and an exclusive Dayton Legends Softball Club polo shirt, which is only given to Legends members.
Choked up with tears, Kuhnen explained that he and other area softball officials wanted to find a way to recognize Southwest Ohio’s best in amateur softball. The USSSA Dayton chapter had previously only had a Memorial tournament, which recognized softball standouts who had passed away. Kuhnen recalled a fellow USSSA official saying “it was a shame that a person had to be dead in order to be recognized by this game,” and he set about creating a tournament that would recognize the area’s best when they were still around to enjoy it.
Saturday’s event was the 13th Legends of the Game recognition ceremony. There have been 77 area softball personalities recognized thus far. Eleven of that number have since passed away.