One of my first loves at The Gazette was covering fast-pitch softball. My father, Jack Ogden, was a big player in the local softball scene and I used to tag along when he covered Major Open games at Ellis Park, getting to know the players and enjoying the intensity of the battle between pitcher and batter.
Once I started covering these games myself, my passion for the sport only grew.
But, alas, men’s major fast-pitch softball is all but dead in Eastern Iowa and across the country. USA Softball — formerly known as the Amateur Softball Association — doesn’t even sponsor a “major” state tournament in Iowa, only an all-class one. The tournament drew nine teams this summer, including a Turner Design team from Cedar Rapids coached by longtime fast-pitch supporter Gene Turner.
But there still is a Iowa Fast-pitch Hall of Fame and Eastern Iowa, rightfully and thankfully, will be well-represented next month.
Make that, thankfully and a bit sadly.
Jerry Schneekloth, who lived in Ely, died Sept. 7, a little over a month short of making the induction ceremony. Schneekloth, a “proud member” of Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s only state championship baseball team, played fast-pitch for 30 years for several different teams, including Kings Concrete and Collins Radio. One of his biggest highlights was hitting a three-run homer in the seventh inning of an ASA regional tournament in 1976, earning all-region honors.
The list of other entrants includes Michael White, a native New Zelander who pitched Cedar Rapids Teleconnect to the 1987 International Softball Congress world title and now coaches at Oregon; Mike Stickney, an eight-time state tournament MVP who played with the Iowans, Collins and Bosch Rausch, among others, in a career that spanned from 1983 to 1999; and Dale Lassen, who played the game from 1964 to ’81 with such teams as Happitime, Welty Way and Collins and caught for the likes of Gregg Bosch, Al Rausch and Pete Sandman.
A group of 10 men — two posthumously — will be honored Oct. 15 at the Quality Inn in Ames. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m.
The game is fading, but these memories last a lifetime.
There’s a new byline on our Iowa State coverage.
Ben Visser is replacing Dylan Montz as our Iowa State beat writer, an important position and vital beat for our coverage beyond Eastern Iowa.
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Montz, who grew up in Mechanicsville, attended Iowa State and worked as an intern with The Gazette before taking over the Cyclone beat, has accepted a full-time position with the Ames Tribune. He started his new job on Monday.
Montz did a great job elevating our coverage of Iowa State athletics, tackling the big news from football and men’s basketball but also giving readers a look at the women’s basketball, volleyball and wrestling teams, among many other stories. He also was a big part of our high school state tournament coverage and the Drake Relays.
Montz will be missed, by you and me. But we have great faith Visser will take this role to another level. He will graduate from ISU in December and has covered Iowa State sports for the student newspaper, earning a stellar reputation for his coverage of the Cyclone wrestling team.
Visser, a native of Sioux Falls, S.D., is proficient in shooting video, working in front of a camera and podcasts. He also understands how social media helps enhance our coverage of games and events and connects our writers with readers. Our hope is Visser will greatly enhance our digital coverage.
Readers of this section, hopefully, understand coverage of the University of Iowa is king in Eastern Iowa. Our high school coverage runs a close second, along with Iowa State. We are confident Visser will provide you with the coverage you desire on the Cyclones — both in print and online.
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