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USSSA Update - Welcome to the 2014 Dudley
By Troy Mickelson
On behalf of Minnesota’s USSSA and the Minnesota Recreation and Park Association, I want to welcome all players and fans to Brooklyn Center’s Dudley/Budweiser/Easton Major NIT. It is hard to believe that this is the 32nd year that the world’s best softball players have invaded the Land of 10,000 Lakes. I am fortunate enough to have been involved in my first Dudley Classic. I look forward to this event with great anticipation, not only for the quality of softball that is displayed, but also for the opportunity to watch some of the best softball players play softball in the best state.
This past February, a crowd of over 300 gathered at Brooklyn Center’s Crown Plaza to honor our newest inductees into our 2013 State Hall of Fame – Garrett Beck, Bart Peck, Scott Breuer, Fran Headline, Belinda Strobel, Darrell Nielson, Erick Norby, John Phyle, Mike Fluegge and Scott Brown.
All indications reveal that Minnesota’s USSSA will continue to grow and prosper in the years to come. Our No. 1 priority is to give you, the participant, a quality program that you can enjoy.
Let’s give a warm Minnesota welcome to Rick Robertson, USSSA’s National Umpire-In-Chief. Rick was appointed Umpire-In-Chief in 1999 and has served in that capacity since that time. This is the ninth year he has traveled across the country for Nationwide Conference USSSA tournaments. Rick is responsible for bracketing, scheduling umpires and their travel, checking bats, tournament directing when needed and serving as Umpire-In-Chief of the conference tournaments. Rick has also been the Umpire-In-Chief for the Men’s “A” World and Men’s Major World Series since 1999. Rick was inducted into the USSSA National Hall of Fame in 1996 and resides in Kissimmee, Fla., with his fiancée Anna.
Once again, some of the country’s finest will be calling balls and strikes at this Dudley. Let’s meet these dedicated individuals:
Mike Fluegge – Mike is a 22-year retired U.S. Air Force Veteran. He’s been a USSSA Official since 1999 and this is his ninth Dudley. Mike is also the new Minnesota USSSA State Umpire in Chief this year and is enjoying his new responsibilities. In 2007, he umpired the Men’s Major World Series, the Men’s “A” and “B” World Series, and the Conference USSSA Championships in Florida. He’s officiated, been a Tournament Director and UIC for many other World, National, Regional and State Tournaments in his career. Mike has two sons, Kevin (27) and Nicholas (25) who’s soon to be married to Kate Masse, and a daughter, Skyler (15). Mike enjoys hunting, fishing, riding his Harley Davidson Road King Classic and spending good quality time with his parents, Ron and Mavis, and the rest of his family. Mike was recently inducted into the Minnesota USSSA Hall of Fame for the 2013 class as an umpire.
Pete Strand III – Pete lives in Rosemount and is the new Minnesota USSSA State Deputy Umpire in Chief. Pete has worked for Richfield/Bloomington Honda for 13 years in the parts department. He has umpired in five World Series tournaments and has been umpiring for 20 years. Pete has played and umpired in many state and national tournaments and is still playing. He also enjoys golfing, bowling and mountain biking. This is Pete’s ninth Dudley. This past November Pete married his beautiful wife, Kellie.
Bart Peck – Bart has been umpiring for 20 years and this is his seventh Dudley Classic. During this time Bart has umpired numerous Regional, NIT’s, State and World Tournaments in Orlando, Fla. Bart has been married for 28 years to his wonderful wife Katie and they have two great kids, Alex (19) and Amanda (17). In addition to umpiring softball, Bart is also a high school baseball and basketball official. He was recently inducted into the Minnesota USSSA Hall of Fame for the 2013 class as an umpire.
Mark Dallenbach – Mark is currently a stay-at-home dad. He has been married for 13 years and has three children. Mark has umpired in Nationals, NIT’s and State Tournaments. He has also umpired the 2010-13 World Tournaments in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. This is Mark’s fifth Dudley Classic. He loves spending time with his wife and children.
Mike Ellenz – Mike is the owner of Premier Construction Services and has umpired 32 NCAA baseball and fast-pitch national championships. He has also worked State, National and World USSSA Slow-Pitch events. In 2010, Mike was inducted into the USSSA Minnesota Hall of Fame. This is Mike’s 11th Dudley Classic.
Kevin Peterson – Kevin has worked 29 years in the automotive field as a GM Technician. He has been an umpire for 23 years and has umpired in Nationals, NIT’s and State Tournaments. When not umpiring, Kevin enjoys spending time with his wife Paige and his twin boys, Nick (11) and Nate (11). This is Kevin’s sixth Dudley Classic.
Steve Thornton – Steve is an eight-year Marine Corps veteran. He has officiated at all levels from football, basketball, baseball and softball. Steve has been umpiring softball for 13 years. In 2010-12, he has umpired the Men’s B, C, E and Women’s A and B World Tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Steve has five children, two boys and three girls, Jacboy (33), Mikaela (25), Imani (24), Shayania (16) and Steven (9). He enjoys fishing and camping and spending quality time with his children. This is Steve’s fourth Dudley Classic.
Ken Girard – This will be Ken’s 21st Dudley Classic. Ken has been umpiring and refereeing for 30-plus years. During those 30 years, he has worked for Joe Ericksen in Brooklyn Center Parks and Recreation. Ken umpired the 2012 Men’s Class “C” World Tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla, and numerous state and national tournaments, including two Class B and two Over 35 World Series tournaments. He has also been a member of the Minnesota State High School League for 14 years, doing basketball, football, baseball and broomball. Ken’s hobbies include deer hunting, fishing and most anything outdoors.
Scotty O’Neil – Scotty resides in Eagan, Minn. He has been a USSSA umpire for 25 years. This is Scott’s third Dudley Classic. Scotty has three children, Kimberly, Kevin and Kyle and four grandchildren. He worked the 2011 and 2013 World Series in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and several state and national tournaments. Scotty has also traveled as a USSSA umpire to officiate conference softball tournaments over the past couple of years.
Vern Ronhovde – Vern has been a USSSA umpire for the past 20 years. He has worked numerous Local, State and national tournaments. Vern has worked the World Series in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the last five years working the men’s Class C, D, and E and Women’s Class A, B and C tournaments. He has been married to his wife Jeanne for 28 years and has two sons Nick, 25, and Adam 22.
Keith Wallace – Keith lives in South St. Paul with his wife (Kathie) of 28 years and has four sons. He has umpired USSSA Slow-Pitch for 28 years. Keith has umpired at many local, State and National tournaments and has umpired in six World Series tournaments. This is Keith’s first Dudley Classic as an umpire. He is the UIC softball umpire assigner coordinator in Eagan and Apple Valley and has held this position for the past twenty years. Keith has played amateur baseball, slow-pitch softball and fast-pitch softball for many years. When Keith isn’t umpiring or playing softball he likes to play golf, read and watch movies in his spare time.
Eric Casperson – Eric has been umpiring for 13 years and this will be his first Dudley Classic. He has worked many local, Regional, State, NIT’s, including the 2011 and 2012 World tournament in Orlando Fla. Eric is married to his lovely wife, Kathy, of 19 years. They have two sons, Tyler (19) U.S. Air Force Airmen First Class, and Brandon (13), a soon to be eighth grader. These three are the loves of his life, and he cherishes every moment he can to be with them. Outside of umpiring, Eric has coached both of his sons in football and baseball. He enjoys the time watching and being involved in their activities. A small known fact that some may or may not know about Eric: When leaving Florida from Worlds in 2012, he was diagnosed with Leukemia. He has been treating and continues to treat this disease. Eric is doing great and all tests are leading to remission. “I have the greatest support team in the world and I am feeling great”.
Jason Casperson – Jason resides in Brooklyn Park, Minn., and is the Sales Manager for a large manufacturing company in the Minneapolis suburbs. After serving in Desert Storm from 1991-96, Jason spent 20 years of playing softball in USSSA. He has been an umpire for seven years. This will be Jason’s second Dudley Classic, and is very excited to be part of this fun tournament full of great teams, umpires, organizers and fans. Jason is the proud father of two beautiful girls, Jordan (17) and Claire (13). He was able to coach his younger daughter to the USSSA 12U state championship last year and is an active supporter of his older daughter’s marching band as she is a two time champion as well.
Chuck (Doc) Beckwell – Chuck hails from the Wolverine State. “Doc,” as he is known to the softball world, works as a family and cosmetic dentist in both Shelby Township and St. Clair Shores, Mich. Chuck, Beth and their four kids, Charles III, Erin, Robert and Allyson, reside in Shelby Township as well. Chuck started umpiring in 1977 and joined the USSSA in 1984 while at Liberty Park of America in Sterling Heights, Mich. He has umpired in A, B, C, D, E, Industrial and Mixed World tourneys each year since then, including the class A/AA in Raleigh, Va., leading up to the Men’s Class A Final this year in its new home in Kissimmee, Fla., on the fields at Fortune Road. Doc has worked world tournaments in each major classification since beginning in 1984, including over 1,000 games in Conference USSSA, the Premier League of Major Softball. In addition, Chuck umpired a home run derby in Tiger Stadium in 2001 where Mike Macenko became only the 19th player to ever clear the roof in the now torn down Tiger Stadium, joining Harmon Killebrew, the great Minnesota Twins player, as one of only five players to ever clear the right field roof in the now razed stadium. Doc umpired the first-ever USSSA Conference Championship at the plate in 2006 and added the plate for the finals of the Class “A” and Major World Series that year as well. He has worked as a “Crew Chief” for the past 10 years at the USSSA Major World Series, “The Showcase of Softball.” He has become an integral part of the Umpiring program for the National Office. Doc has also been a key figure in the development of new uniforms for all of the USSSA Umpires nationwide and specifically designing Conference USSSA umpire uniforms. In 2006 he attended the USSSA National Convention and was named USSSA “Official of the Year.” In 2011 he was named as the inaugural, “Nationwide Conference Umpire of the Year”. Doc was inducted into the Michigan USSSA Hall of Fame in 1996, was elected into the USSSA National Hall of Fame and has worked in thirteen Major World Series in his long career of service to the USSSA. Chuck looks forward to the camaraderie of his fellow umpires in Minnesota and the outstanding competition and tradition of the 32nd annual Dudley Budweiser Classic. This will be Doc’s eighth Dudley Classic.
Tony (The Rook) Walczak – Tony currently lives in Macomb Township, Mich., where he is a supervisor in shipping and receiving. He joined USSSA in 1993 at Liberty Park of America in Sterling Heights, Mich. Tony has umpired ten Men’s Major World Series (2003-13) and seven Mixed World Series Tournaments (2006 and 2008-13). He has also umpired eight Conference USSSA Championships (2006-13), numerous NIT’s, State and Regional Tournaments. Tony has called several World Tournaments including 10 “A”, two “B”, three “C” and “D.” Tony has been honored to receive the Michigan Umpire in Chief award in 2005, the 2010 USSSA National Umpire of the Year Award, the 2011 National USSSA Official of the Year and was inducted into the Michigan Hall of Fame this past March. This is Tony’s ninth Dudley Budweiser Classic.
Duane (Drano) Posavetz – Duane is originally from Michigan and now resides in Orlando, Fla., where he’s a service consultant for a Chevrolet dealership. Drano has been umpiring for over 29 years with many accolades to include USSSA “Official of the Year” in 2007. He’s umpired all levels at the National and World Series divisions, to include 12 Major World Series appearances, with the first in Fredrick, Md., in 1996. He and his beautiful wife Linda have two wonderful kids, Jason (34) and Kelly (22), and is the proud new grandpa of Kailey Grace (Jason’s first born). He enjoys bowling and playing golf with his wife, Mr. Rick and the lovely Ms. Anna. This is Drano’s seventh Dudley.
Pete Strand II – Pete currently resides in Burnsville, Minn. He started umpiring in 1974 and has been the South District Umpire-in-Chief for over 20 years. Pete has managed his own trucking company for over 20 years. He has umpired in the World Series in Orlando and has also umpired in Europe while he was in the U.S. Army. Pete has been married for 42 years and has 3 children. He has inspired his sons to take interest in playing softball and umpiring. Pete Strand III has recently become the Assistant Deputy Umpire in Chief and Ryan has now been umpiring for over five years. Pete also enjoys spending time with his two granddaughters and tinkering with his trucks.
In addition to the umpires who will be working the trenches, I want you to know some of the other fine individuals associated with the Dudley/Budweiser/Easton Classic:
Jim Glasoe, our host, is the Director of Brooklyn Center’s Community Activities, Recreation and Service Department. Jim enjoys golf and home improvement projects in his spare time. Jim and his wife, Ann, of 24 years reside in Champlin. Their two sons are attending college in sunny California.
Joe Ericksen, our host, is the Recreation Program Supervisor for the City of Brooklyn Center. Joe runs one of the state’s finest USSSA leagues. His hobbies include softball, hunting and fishing. Joe and his wife, Theresa, reside in Champlin. He is a member of our state Hall of Fame.
Warren Bellm is the choreographer for this tournament. As the Tournament Director, he ultimately has the responsibility of coordinating the overall effort along with Joe. Warren will have put in literally hundreds of hours before a champion is declared on Sunday afternoon. He is responsible for making this the No. 1 NIT in the country. Warren himself was a well-respected umpire for 16 years and is currently a USSSA Area Director. He also has been the Tournament Director for the Men’s Major World Series and numerous Conference Tournaments. Warren retired as an investigator for the District Attorney’s Office of Hennepin County. This spring he started his fourth season working for the Minnesota Twins at Target Field in guest services. Warren and his wife, Sandy, have two children and four grandchildren. Warren is a member of our State Hall of Fame.
Joe Bruntmyer is a tournament assistant. Joe is the Athletic Supervisor for the Vernon Hills Illinois Park District. Joe, who was my assistant in 2000, comes back to his old stomping grounds to assist each year. Joe and his wife are proud parents of baby August, and live in Vernon Hills, Ill.
Jerry Marinelli – Jerry enjoys retirement from the Post Office after 36 years of employment. He has retired from umpiring and the State Umpire in Chief position in 2013. Jerry umpired the 2000 and 2004 Men’s Major World Series in Florida. In 2002, he was inducted into the USSSA Minnesota Hall of Fame. In 2009, Jerry received the USSSA National Spark Plug of the Year Award. He is married and has two children, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren. His hobbies include golfing and being around softball.
Gregg Otten has been in and around softball for over 40 years and is a member of our State Hall of Fame. Gregg started OTTS Product Company specializing in softball bat protection equipment.
Steve Cahill would normally be umpiring this weekend but a knee injury has put him on the staff. Steve’s son Aaron and his wife Sara have a son Logan who grandpa is very proud of! Steve is employed by Goodin, a wholesale plumbing and heating company, and also works for the city of Brooklyn Center. Steve is a member of our State Hall of Fame.
When the voice of softball, Ray Molphy, retired a few years ago, some thought it would leave a void in the announcing department. But the announcing has not missed a beat with the very capable Dave Trombley. When Ray had to catch a plane before the start of the “98” championship game, Dave was called to duty and he’s been behind the mic on the north field ever since. Dave, who is 40 years old, lives in Brooklyn Park.
Steve Ericson will be on the mic on the south field this weekend. He is very well respected in the softball world and is a member of our State Hall of Fame. Steve is employed by Independent School District 279. As the girls’ fastpitch coach at Park Center High School, he guided the Pirates to back-to-back state titles in 2010 and 2011. Steve has been named the Class AA State Coach of the Year during those championship seasons. He and his wife Miki of 36 years reside in Otsego.
Brooklyn Center’s Park Maintenance Department is the best in the business. Once again the playing conditions will be second to none!
I have only mentioned a handful of people associated with this tournament. Obviously it takes a great deal more people than that to run a tournament of this magnitude. I salute the many employees of the park maintenance, police, recreation, and volunteer fire departments and others who lend their time and talents to make this the best Men’s Major National Invitational Tournament in the country.
Check out the Minnesota USSSA website and view the listings of all tournaments. You can also print out copies of numerous fliers for weekend tournaments.
Minnesota USSSA/MRPA Website:
National USSSA Website Access:
If I can be of any assistance in any of your softball needs, please call me at 763-571-1305 x 108 or 1-800-862-3659 x 108, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by my office at 200 Charles Street NE, Fridley, MN 55432.
REMEMBER – It is you, the player, coach, fan, director, umpire and association that make USSSA a GREAT organization and the place to be!