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NSA Girl's Fast Pitch Softball
Illinois NSA

Hall of Fame Class of 2015

Jim Crawford
Umpire
Bradley, Illinois
Inducted December 5, 2015

Jim recently completed his 34th year as a softball, baseball and basketball official. Jim is the proud father of two sons: Cameron, a graduate of Eastern Illinois University, and Flynn, a junior at University of Chicago. Jim has worked many NSA Fast-Pitch, NSA Slow-Pitch, and BPA Baseball for States, NITs, Regionals, World Series and Super World Series. NSA Fast-Pitch is his true passion. However, he loves the pace, speed and power of the slow-pitch game. In both, he has worked with a great group of umpires.

One of the highlights of his career was working with the late Jerry Nihiser in the 2014 NSA Slow-Pitch Super World Series in Columbus, Ohio. Jim has an extensive career in high school and collegiate athletics. He has refereed many Regionals, Sectionals, Super Sectionals and State Finals for the IHSA, and private associations. Currently working JUCO and small college women’s softball, Jim has had the privilege of working three straight National Junior College (NJCAA) World Championship games in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Jim adds, “Of the many organizations and entities I have officiated for over the years, NSA is the top of the list. A classy organization, NSA feels like family to me. They are determined to give players, coaches, umpires, parents and fans the ultimate in providing great settings and experiences for all involved. I am humbled and honored as a small part of it all, and I thank the committee for my induction into the Illinois NSA Hall of Fame!”


 

Illinois Stars Girl's
Fast-Pitch Organization
Kankakee, Illinois
Inducted December 5, 2015

Six years ago Illinois Stars (known then as Team Oak Stars 10u), coached by Tom Outsen and Mike Cann, began competing in local NSA tournaments in the Kankakee area. That team, Tom’s first with the organization, competed in the Howling, the Homestead and other NSA tournaments in Kankakee. Through these tournaments, the Stars qualified for the NSA World Series in Peoria, Illinois. One would think a 3rd place finish in the World Series that year would be the most memorable NSA tournament along with an exciting 1-0 victory over the reigning state champion East Peoria Express, but a rain shortened NSA North State in Tinley Park proved to be the best shot at knocking off the powerhouse 10U Downers Grove Outlaws. The winner’s bracket was decided by a coin flip and the Outlaws couldn’t even lose a coin flip that year.

Rivalries were established in the girl’s 10u season. The Downers Grove Outlaws, East Peoria Express, Crown Point Bulldogs and the Edge Chaos 99’s were rivalries that would last the next few years. The following year, Tom and Mike took a talented 10u Stars team and competed in as many NSA tournaments as possible.  The watershed moment was the NSA State Tournament Championship. The Stars rode the momentum of that victory to an NSA World Series Championship in Indianapolis, IN. New rivalries were formed with New Lenox Lightning and Northwest Indiana White Sox.  These rivalries helped create a very strong team by the time Team Oak Stars became the Illinois Stars. These rivalries showed the young ladies, that despite the rivalry, sportsmanship was the most important lesson.

One year later, Tom and Mike took these young ladies and competed in an “A” schedule.  These tournaments always included the local “A” tournaments hosted by NSA in Kankakee. That season the 12u Stars team competed in the NSA “A” World Series Tournament in Spartanburg, SC. The girls were steam rolled in the second round and found themselves in the loser’s side of a very large bracket. Within a 24 hour span, the 12u Stars won 6 games in a row to earn a spot in the top 3, before losing in the “play in game” and earning 3rd place finish in the NSA “A” World Series. More recently, the Stars competed and earned a spot in the NSA “A” 16u World Series tournament in Chattanooga, TN.  Although the team did not finish the way they had hoped, or grown accustom to, the young ladies still showed the grit and determination developed under Tom Outsen’s leadership. His coaching style, and the opportunities for our local group of girls to compete in NSA tournaments, helped create an extraordinary stable of softball talent that is shown throughout the high school softball teams in the area. Many of the young ladies, who have had success all the way to high school state championships, passed through the NSA tournaments and our Stars organization.


 

Mike McCormick
Umpire
Rantoul, Illinois
Inducted December 5, 2015

Mike McCormick attended Norris City-Omaha high school in Southern Illinois and graduated in 1984, where he played baseball, basketball and ran track. He later received an AS degree from Southeastern Illinois College, and then attended Greenville College, where he played baseball for one year. His baseball career was ended by surgery to remove a benign tumor on his femur, but Mike went on to graduate with a BS in Marketing. He now lives in Rantoul, IL, and has been married to his wife, Kim, for 26 years, and has two daughters, Hannah, 21 and Haley, 17. Mike started his officiating career in 1999 officiating volleyball, basketball and softball for recreation leagues and high school level. A few years later, while working through the Rantoul Recreation Department, he met and worked with Hans Flessner, who introduced him to Leonard Winchester and Bob Biehl. Mike started his NSA career by working the local Central Illinois Diamonds tournament for a few years, and then decided to become more committed to NSA umpiring in 2009. Since that time, he has worked numerous NSA Qualifiers and State Championships here in Illinois, as well as a NSA World Series, where he was selected to work the Championship game. Mike would have worked many more World Series, but, as is the case with a lot of us, his real job (which supports him and his family) always seemed to interfere with his fun. In addition to his NSA and high school officiating schedule, Mike continues to officiate recreational ball, giving those youth the same professionalism that he gives to higher level ball players. He also volunteers his time to coach; he coached Junior High basketball at St. John’s in Buckley for seven years, winning two regional championships. He has coached Varsity Boys’ Basketball the past eight years at Buckley Christ Lutheran School, and the past two years has also coached Varsity Girls’ Basketball there while also coaching the boys! Mike says, “My philosophy as an umpire is that the game is about the players, and not about me. I always strive to give my very best, no matter what level I’m working, so the players and coaches can have their best experience on the field. Through NSA, I have been blessed to meet some wonderful people, and work with some of the very best umpires in the state. Those learning opportunities and interactions have helped me grow personally and professionally.”


 

Jerry Nihiser
Umpire / Player / Director
Decatur, Illinois
Inducted December 5, 2015

Jerry Nihiser was a most valuable player for Illinois NSA. We had the opportunity to have Jerry play NSA, umpire NSA, and direct the game of NSA! Jerry played NSA softball with competitive teams such as All Star Diner/Easton, Throop Softball, Easton/Central All Stars, Illinois Easton/Throop/Sammy's and Precision Recovery. Jerry umpired NSA slow-pitch softball including States, World Series and Super World Series. He enjoyed working the higher division teams and was very good at communicating with them. Jerry worked as a site director/UIC for central and southern Illinois and directed tournaments for Gerry Gund. He always used to say, “Just tell me where to be at and what to do and I will be there!”

Jerry played ball for as long as his family can remember. He started with t-ball, like a lot of boys did. He played through every summer he was in school and kept on playing after college. He loved softball more than anyone they have ever known. For him, him it was like his meditation. He was joyful and at peace when he played. His sister, Angie, adds, “He was amazing as a human being, father, and pawpa – always fun, joyous, giving, he always spoke with heartfelt sincerity, honesty, he was hardworking and he played hard. Jerry enjoyed his sport every time he had the opportunity to the fullest extent. To him, it wasn’t just a sport. It was more. It was his tradition and his way of connecting with others, and himself.

He is greatly missed, every day!” Today we reach out to Jerry, still playing softball up there in heaven as we induct him into the Illinois NSA Hall of Fame!


 

Don Nolin
Umpire
Kankakee, Illinois
Inducted December 5, 2015

Don "Donnie" Nolin was a veteran slow-pitch Umpire and Umpire-in-Chief for Kankakee and the Illinois area for over 20 years. He served in the Army in Korea with the 304th Signal Company. Don worked at Quaker Oats for 20 years and after being laid off he took up umpiring full-time and scheduling umpires. Don partnered with Dick "Polock" Kanoski in organizing and training umpires to accommodate large tournaments. Then, the area was awarded the Class B State, a 100 team tournament from a national governing body in 1984. Don met with tournament organizers and helped draw up a bracket which would be played at River Road Park. Don and Dick contacted and scheduled the needed umpires to work over 200 games in 5 days. They did so well that Kankakee ended up hosting that tournament for eight years! Don married his wife, Chun, in 1975 and they had a son named Tom who umpired with his father from 1991 to 1993. Chun (Lee) passed away in February 1999.

Tom is now married to his wife, Annie, and they reside with their family in Bloomington, IL. Don was considered by many to be the finest softball umpire in the state. He umpired 33 State tournaments and 2 Regional tournaments. On August 13, 1993, during the Class B State tournament, the Kankakee Valley Park District officially named Diamond 2 at River Road Park "Donald G. Nolin Field". Don's family was there to throw the first ball and participate in the National Anthem. His son, Tom, umpired the first game of the tournament. Don passed away on October 10, 1992. He was also honored with the Don Plarski Award which is presented annually to the umpire who has shown exemplary umpiring skills. The recipient is one of the best umpires, on and off of the field and represents his/her organization with pride, courtesy, confidence, and professionalism.


 

Jack Wagner
Player / Coach
Springfield, Illinois
Inducted December 5, 2015

Jack has had a passion for baseball and softball the majority of his life. Coming from Ohio, and being raised an avid Cincinnati Reds fan, he has been entrenched into the baseball/softball coaching lifestyle for over 42 years. His coaching/playing career began while he was at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, playing catcher at the Division III School. He then continued coaching for many years, specifically in High School summer baseball. Furthermore, he played baseball and softball but a spiking injury in the late 70’s required that he focus his attention on coaching rather than playing. In 2007, he attempted to “retire” from coaching baseball and was approached by his son (Chip) to coach and manage their men’s slow-pitch softball team; thus evolved “Captain Jack” and the Capital City Snipers.

The Snipers affiliation was with Illinois NSA softball and State Director Gerry Gund who was extremely crucial in decisions of tournament qualifiers, of which the team qualified for all four years of his tenure. The Snipers qualified for State, World Series, and the Super World Series all four years. Due to family commitments, they were only able to actually play in the 2009 Super World Series in Indianapolis, where they took 6th place. In 2010, the team was ranked amongst the top ten in the Midwest Region. They played in the D-Division in 2008-2009 and in the C-Division in 2010-2011. Jack is a devoted husband of over 37 years to his wife Karen. They have two children (Jennifer & Chip – who holds the same passion for baseball and softball as his father), and three grandchildren (Michael, Callie, and Ian). With the tournament schedule typically running from March-October, he is grateful for the support he received from the family in order to live out this passion and commitment. Now that he is retired from coaching, he enjoys golf, hunting and his grandchildrens’ activities. It is his extreme honor to be recognized for something that he holds so dear.