Touch on the history of the game. You witnessed plenty of the best years of the game and played in many of them, what does that history mean to you?
Softball in Kenosha was a big time sport when I was younger. The early 80’s when I started playing had so many great players and teams. These were some of the best summers you could have playing softball in and around Kenosha. The competition was so good with so many teams that played at a high level it made you want to get better at your craft.
What was your first softball memory?
I got my first introduction to it from my sister Lindy when she would take me to the city finals at Simmons Field in the late 70’s/early 80’s to watch some of her friends play in the finals. At that time I was still playing hardball and really didn’t envision myself playing because as all kids do, I had the dream that one day I may play baseball at the collegiate level and beyond. I figured it would be something that I could do once my hardball days were finished. Little did I know that would be sooner rather than later due to a shoulder injury while pitching in high school.
Who gave you your first chance at playing?
Gary Schneeberger gave me my first chance to play. He played with the Fifth Amendment (That’s right, the Fifth). He taught me the ins and out of the game. Since I came from a hardball background, the fielding was fine, I needed to learn how to hit a slowpitch softball. I was all pull hitter when I started and he showed me what it took to use the whole field and hit the ball the other way. After a few years, he then was able to get me on his brothers great AMC Nudi 14” team. This is where I got to play with some great players and went on to win many city 14” titles.
Where is your all-time favorite place to play…could be a city, a park, a field…anywhere.
One of my favorite local places to play was always been New Munster. The field was great, the atmosphere was great, the competition was always great and you had huge crowds that came out all weekend to watch the games. A close 2nd would be Lincoln park for the Rotary tournament every summer. Another place that had a great atmosphere with no fences and plenty of huge crowds over the years.
Was it by design that you were always the guy people were watching at every Rotary Tournament?
I really don’t see myself as someone people were there to watch. I have been very fortunate to have played on some great TEAMS over the years and just loved to have a good time while I played.
With the Rotary coming up….what was your signature moment in Blade Rotary history?
Hmmmmm, this is a hard one. I have had many great moments playing in the Rotary with many great players and teams. If there was one that really stood out, it probably was winning the title with the Sunnyside Highlifers back in 1992. We had one of our outfielders (Chris Westermeyer) and our pitcher (Jeff “Butch” Munroe) go down with broken collarbones and went on to win with our backup pitch Kris “Nightemare” Ray. It was pretty special at the time how our team came together.
Who is the best you ever played with or against? Just 1
How can you hold me to just one here? That is not fair. I guess I would have to say Dick Laba, but that is really shortchanging others.
Name THE pitcher you owned not named Pat Hegewald?
The pitcher I owned would have to be Glen Marescalco, sorry Glen. I still remember playing his Coors Lite team in the Rotary and coming up with runners on the corners. As I walked to the plate, he looked at me and laughed telling me “I might as well just put you on first now”.
What does being in this pretty cool Hall of Fame mean to you?
It is quite the honor to be nominated. I really wasn’t expecting it and it is a little humbling. I have played for quite a few years now, many of them at the top level in town but the only reason I am here is because of all the great teammates I have been surrounded by over the years. If it wasn’t for them, I would have no business getting inducted this year.
One last question, are you and your wife the most popular people in the history of the Sunnyside Club?
You are pretty funny with this one.
Hess and fellow 2019 inductees will be honored at a ceremony at the Kenosha Rotary Tournament on July 14th at Lincoln Park. The rest of the 2019 Kenosha Softball Hall of Fame class:
Brad Breilling, Dan McGonegle, Glen Marescalco, Doug Spitzer, Tanya Bertog McGonegle, Kevin McGinn, Butch Schultz, Clarence Bosman, George Bosman, Doug Stanich, Joe Bentz and Al Gajdos