ASA HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
November 14 2012
Larry Mays, the coach of Gordon’s Panthers, who won 10 national titles under his tutelage, became the first travel ball coach to be inducted into the ASA Hall of Fame, during ceremonies Wednesday in Dallas, where ASA conducted its annual council meeting.
Also honored were umpire Chris Armijo of Michigan, manager Denny Bruckert of Illinois, meritorious award winner Ivan Wheeler of Louisiana, manager Leon Grunalt of Michigan, and slow pitch player Jerry King of Kentucky, Each inductee was introduced, a brief history read, and then each inductee spoke to the audience, mostly thanking those with whom they had associated professionally.
Mays had two tables of supporters; his wife Barbara, three daughters and their families, as well as former Panthers now coaching in college: Deana Mays Gumpf, Notre Dame; Kelly Inouye Perez, UCLA, and Kim Sowder, at Long Beach, as well as Rosie Perez, and Spy publisher Rayburn Hesse.
Chris Armijo (Grand Rapids, Mich.) – Umpire
Chris Armijo has been an ASA umpire for almost 40 years, during which he has had a great impact upon both ASA and Michigan ASA. Prior to becoming an ASA umpire, Chris played on five ASA State Championship teams. Armijo’s credentials speak for themselves: he is a certified ISF umpire, an ASA Elite umpire, a member of the National Indicator Fraternity since 1994, a Gold Level member of the Medals Program, and a member of the Michigan ASA Hall of Fame since 1998. He was awarded the Michigan ASA Umpire Award of Excellence twice and has served as District 7 Commissioner and Umpire-in-Chief in addition to umpiring seven National Championships. His most noteworthy accomplishment, however, is his role in the creation of the Grand Rapids Area Slow Pitch Softball Association. Amidst budget cuts, Armijo spearheaded the movement for the volunteer organization which keeps softball teams participating in ASA. Armijo has had a great influence upon the Michigan ASA umpires, and has served as an avid supporter and promoter for ASA softball.
Denny Bruckert (Gillespie, Ill.) – Manager
Beginning in 1961, Denny Bruckert has dedicated his life to softball. Growing up in a small town in Illinois, Bruckert fostered a love for fast pitch softball, a love that would endure well after his playing days were over. Rather than hang up his cleats, Bruckert turned to managing men’s fast pitch teams. After managing several successful teams, Bruckert was asked to manage the Decatur Pride of Decatur, Illinois in 1993. Bruckert led the Pride to three ASA National Championships and two runner-up titles prior to their disbanding in 2001. Bruckert did not give up on his passion, however, and continued his successful managerial career, winning three additional ASA National titles in 2002, 2005 and 2006 with three different organizations. Bruckert also left his mark on the international scene, serving as the assistant coach to the U.S. National team in 1996 and head coach to the 1999 U.S. Pan American silver medal team. Bruckert is also a member of the Illinois ASA Hall of Fame, and the ISC Hall of Fame.
Leon Grunalt (Warren, Mich.) – Manager
Leon Grunalt began his softball career in 1955 on a local fast pitch team. He quickly developed a love for the game, and in 1958, he began his managerial career with local Detroit teams. After several successful seasons within local travel leagues, Grunalt found success in 1984 when his Budweiser sponsored team won the ASA Men’s 35 and over National Invitational. After ASA sanctioned this category in 1985, Grunalt’s team went on to win the National title for two consecutive years. Then, in 1988, Grunalt joined forces with Karl and Fred Nothdurft and with new sponsorship the Nothdurft slow pitch team was created. Under his leadership, the team won 37 consecutive games, compiled a record of 63-5 in national championship play and earned seven National titles. Grunalt managed nine ASA Slow Pitch National Championship teams before retiring in 1994. Grunalt has been a member of the Metro Detroit ASA Hall of Fame since 1994.
Jerry King (Maysville, Ky.) – Slow Pitch Player
Growing up in Maysville, Kentucky Jerry King made a name for himself as a basketball player. After graduating from high school in 1962, King joined the Marine Corps, where he served for four years. After that he earned a basketball scholarship to Morehead State University where he played for four years. King made his softball debut in 1976, playing for Debois Chemical, where he earned his first ASA All-American title. Throughout the span of his career, King has earned numerous honors and awards, most notably five ASA All-American titles (1976, 1979-82), and he has also been a member of several ASA National Championship teams. In 1980, King gave his highest performance with Campbell’s Carpets, appearing in 133 games with a .721 batting average and boasting 191 home runs. In later years, King continued his success playing with the Joseph Chevrolet World Championship team (1994-1996), a team that was rated as one of the top five “50 and over” teams in the country. After his retirement, the honors and accolades continued to come in. King was among the first class inducted into the Columbus, Ohio Legends of the Game (2009). That same year King was honored for his athletic and civic achievements at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall. King has also received honors from the House of Representatives as an Outstanding Citizen of the Commonwealth of Kentucky while also being named a Kentucky Colonel by Steve Beshear, the Governor of Kentucky. His success with Debois Chemical earned King the title of MVP of the ASA 1970s All Decade Team for Columbus, Ohio.
Larry Mays (Canyon Lake, Calif.) – Manager
Prior to coaching the Gordon’s Panthers in 1982, Larry Mays played and managed competitive softball in Southern California. During his 24 years as head coach, the Gordon’s Panthers won 10 ASA Junior Olympic National Championship titles, five runner-up titles and four Hall of Fame championships, establishing their place as one of the most successful teams in ASA history. Mays also made appearances on the international scene when he served as head coach to the U.S. Pan American Trial gold medal team (1987) in Lima, Peru, the ASA Junior Olympic World silver medal team (1991) in Adelaide, Australia, and assistant coach with the Olympic Festival South gold medal team (1993) in San Antonio Texas. Throughout the 1990’s, Mays served as National team advisors to PR China, Holland and Spain and established the Olympic training program for players and coaches in Micronesia. In addition to his coaching career, Mays presented more than 200 collegiate, national and international clinics where he taught both players and coaches. Mays has received numerous awards for his contributions, including the United States Olympic Committee Developmental Coach of the Year (1996, 1999). It is no wonder why people refer to Mays as one of softball’s finest teachers and coaches as well as one of their most sought after clinicians.
Ivan “Ike” Wheeler (Bossier City, La.) – Meritorious Service
Ivan “Ike” Wheeler’s commitment and love for the game of softball is evident throughout his 59 years of involvement with ASA. While serving in the Air Force from 1954-1974, Ike was a member of the Strategic Air Command team, which won eight Air Force World Wide tournaments, and was selected to the All Air Force team twice. After retiring, he joined the Shreveport Parks & Recreation Department and continued his work on promoting ASA and softball. Ike has been a registered ASA umpire for over 56 years and has served as District Commissioner in the Shreveport area, ASA Player Representative, and Louisiana Umpire-in-Chief. In addition to these positions, Wheeler has been a member of the ASA National Indicator Fraternity since 1988 and a member of Louisiana ASA Hall of Fame since 2010. Some of his accomplishments he has achieved since joining ASA are: recipient of the Region 6 Award of Excellence (2009) and umpired four National Championships (1982, 1987, 1988, 1997) in addition to serving as either Tournament Director, Umpire Coordinator, or Housing Authority for 17 National Tournaments. Since 1978, Wheeler has successfully registered every team in the Shreveport Parks and Recreations Department for ASA, and has attended every Umpire-in-Chief clinic and ASA National Convention since 1982.
On Monday afternoon, the ASA Hall of Fame committee met and reviewed the nominations for the 2013 class. The following individuals will be inducted into the ASA National Hall of Fame in November of 2013.
Margie Wright (Clovis, Calif.) – Meritorious Service
Randy Melvin (Dowagiac, Mich.) – Umpire
Laura Berg (Santa Fe Springs, Calif.) – Fast Pitch Player
Lisa Fernandez (Long Beach, Calif.) – Fast Pitch Player
Shirley Simmons Snell (Shreveport, La.) – Slow Pitch Player
SPY wrote the following letter of support for Mays:
The Gordon Panthers record of 11 national championships is affirmation enough of Larry’s coaching ability – and of his long-time assistants Tommy, Alan and Norm, who made the rest of travel ball appreciate the rewards of consistency in coaching staff.
The public record is further garlanded with the list of All Americans and Olympians who first made their mark playing for the Panthers. I have a favorite photo of Gordon’s Panthers who en masse represented the United States at a Junior World qualifier in 1987 – with such stalwarts as Lisa Fernandez, Dee Dee Wieman, Kelly Inouye, Deanna Gumpf and others who have made a lasting imprint on softball.
That public record of Larry as a coach is well known. Perhaps less well known is Larry as a teacher. His Panther teams were innovative – they could play small ball but also hit long. They not only excelled at running the bases, they knew the game, and knew how to move the bases.
That he trained them well is attested to by the long list of college coaches who once wore the Panther colors. I remember a pre-Thanksgiving tournament, talking to Larry at the corner of the dugout, when we turned to face the bleachers – every college coach in the group had played for Larry and Panthers.
Like them, I valued his knowledge, and his friendship. And, the chances I had to see a less public side of Larry. I participated occasionally in his team lectures – not just about hitting or pitching or playing the game – but about life. Larry would educate his players and parents about the college recruiting process but he also influenced the process of life. Larry was intolerant of abusive behavior, and especially immoral behavior. A parent could (and was) dismissed with her daughter because of the parent’s behavior. Players did not have to pay to be a Gordon’s Panther – but they had to conform not just to Larry’s playing rules but also his behavioral rules.
Larry kept the softer side hidden. I remember a friendly where, at lunch time, Larry and I wandered down the left field line, and talked for a while. Afterwards, some people who had seen us wondered what we were talking about – recruiting, game situations, etc. No, Larry was extremely proud of his grandchildren and wanted to show me the latest pictures. A very private man. I had known him for several years before he told me about the equipment he had given to minority teams, and the hours he spent coaching minority teams, without compensation of course.
A meticulous record-keeper, Larry showed me the boxes of memorabilia he keeps at his home. There is literally a history of fastpitch softball in his garage – and in his head. People fancy SPY as a source of institutional knowledge – I am not in his league. But, I enjoy our sessions kicking over the traces, as we did one rainy day at Notre Dame. Larry cared deeply about the girls who played for him, and could remember a positive fact about each player we discussed.
I think in reflection Larry is proudest of all in reflecting on the number of coaches who are products of the Gordon’s Panthers system. They are indeed a testament to his stature as a coach who most assuredly belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Alumni College Head Coaches (8)
Laurie Fritz-Nevarez (UC Redlands)
Kristi Howard-Schroeder (UC Santa Barbara 2001-2007)
Kelli Inouye Perez (UCLA)
Kim Kostyk Sowder (CSU Long Beach)
Scia Maumausolo (formerly at Palomar CC & currently asst. at Mt. Sac.)
Deanna Mays-Gumpf (Notre Dame)
Anna Smith-Ferrara (La Verne 2006-2007)
Dee Dee Weiman Kingsbury (CSU Fullerton associate head coach)
Alumni College Assistant Coaches (19)
Wendy Allen (UC Redlands 2007-2008)
Tia Bollinger (formerly at Loyola Marymount)
Jennifer Brundage (Michigan)
Courtney Dale (formerly at UCLA)
Jenny Dalton-Hill (Formerly at Arizona)
Nancy Evans (Arizona 2000-2007, now at DePaul)
Lisa Fernandez-Lujan (UCLA)
Sherina Galvan (UC Redlands 2009-2010)
Melissa Gomez (Point Loma)
Lizzy Hagen (UOP)
Alicia Hollowell (UC Davis)
Tamera Ivie (formerly at Arizona State / New Mexico State)
Allison Johnsen-McCutchen (Pima-AZ)
Brandee McArthur (formerly at Wisconsin)
Marion Mendoza (Fullerton CC)
Stacy Nuveman-Deniz (San Diego State)
Erin Slettvet (one of the Arizona CC’s)
Mackenzie Vandergeest (formerly at Arizona)
Nichole Victoria (formerly UCLA)
Alumni Olympians (9)
Jessica Mendoza (Women’s sports foundation president)