SIOUX CITY – A nostalgic visit to lonely Hubbard Park might remind them of what was once the highlight of a Sioux City summer.
For the ex-players returning to Our Town this weekend for a reunion of the former Gateway 2000 Soos fast-pitch softball team, the last local vestige of the sport might be an appropriate journey.
Through the 1980s, especially, but not quite surviving in glorious fashion into the current century, Sioux City could rightfully claim to be the fast-pitch softball capital of the world.
The old Penn Corp, National Health Care Discount and Gateway 2000 Soos represented the gold standard of fast-pitch.
Gateway 2000 Soos folks, including the manager, John Ege, invite one and all who made the game a favorite to join players for a meet-and-greet Thursday evening at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
It’ll be a convivial rehash of three-hitters that have become no-hitters and for scratch singles turning into game-winning home runs at Hubbard or later at the now non-existent Diamonds of Champions, home of all three national powers.
After winning International Softball Congress World Tournaments and Amateur Softball Association national championships, the old Penn Corp/NHCD franchises disbanded after the 1993 season and John Ege and several cohorts, who founded the Gateway 2000 Soos in 1991, were eager to take up the mantel of supremacy.
“Our team was put together with the help and assistance of several great sponsors and Ted Waite and Gateway became the major sponsor and we’re forever thankful for that,’’ said Ege, an ISC Hall of Fame infielder with Penn/NHCD and player/manager in Gateway 2000’s five-year run from 1991 to 1995.
Picking a nickname for a team that wound up finishing third twice in the mid-1990s in the ISC World Tournament was also challenging.
“When we picked a nickname for the team we consulted several from the Native American community in Siouxland and received approval to use the nickname,’’ said Ege. “We wanted to honor the tradition of the old Sioux City Soos."
The Sioux City Soos, featuring some of the Our Town’s premier players, including legendary pitcher Leroy Carlson, were a state ASA power for years, winning state titles.
A full weekend of activities are slated. Ege and another former 2000 Soos player, Steve Van Ginkel, have been in the forefront of the organizing committee.
There’s an emphasis on the Gateway 2000s Soos, but this seems more a celebration of the fast-pitch history of Sioux City and those involved are to be commended.
The list of returning players glitters.
Players from as far away as New Zealand – pitcher Jimmy Seaman – will be in attendance as well as some of the old Sioux City Soos that claimed one ASA state title (1976), finished second in another appearance and also took sixth in the ASA Major Nationals in ’76.
A golf outing is planned for Friday.
Saturday’s slate includes an event beginning at 6 p.m. at Bambooze Dry Dock on Council Oak Drive in Riverside Park followed by a dance (Backtrack featuring Brad Howard), both open to the public.
A-W limelight (subhead)
Akron-Westfield High School athletic excellence is well-documented.
The school’s softball team, barring a monumental upset, will win another Class 1A state softball title later this week in Fort Dodge.
And Saturday, A-W graduate Mike Parkinson will be one of the South team assistant coaches in the 44th Iowa Shrine Game football all-star classic in Cedar Falls.
Parkinson earned all-state prep honors in quarterbacking Akron-Westfield to Iowa’s Class A state title in 2002, then moved on to become the original starting quarterback in the then-brand new Briar Cliff collegiate program.
Parkinson will soon begin his sixth season as the head coach at Lynnville-Sully High School where he’s forged a 35-20 record, including playoff quarterfinal teams that posted a 9-3 mark in 2012 and 8-4 last season.
Parkinson’s father, Craig, was a longtime football coach at A-W. Craig has remained close to the game. In his last assignment he helped coach a team in Lodz (pronounced Wooch), Poland. A player-coach on the Lodz team was Mike’s brother, David.
“It’s an honor to coach kids of this caliber,’’ said Mike of the Shrine assignment. “It’s awesome really, I help coach the offensive line.
“Being an Akron grad I’m pulling for them in softball, but I’ll be a little torn if they play Newell-Fonda because Brian Wilken is the football coach there.
“And, he’s the head coach of the North team we’re playing in the Shrine Bowl. He was my coach in Akron T-ball and a super coach. Coaching against him will certainly be special – and different.’’
Mike and wife, Sara, are parents of two daughters and a son.
As a prep senior, one of Mike’s favorite receivers was Cal Bobier, who was selected to play in the Shrine Bowl in 2003.
Northwestern grad (subhead)
Another Lynnville-Sully coach, Jerry Hulsing, was recently named 2016 national high school girls basketball coach of the year by the National High School Coaches Association.
Hulsing, a 1990 Northwestern College graduate, has directed Lynnville-Sully to nine state tournaments in 24 seasons, including Class 1A titles in 1997-98-99 and a runner-up finish in 1996.
Dowdell update (subhead)
In the second competition level of indoor football nothing much ever changes – in the recent past.
The Sioux Falls Storm, sporting a 16-1 record, seeks its sixth straight Indoor Football League title Saturday night, hosting the Spokane Empire.
One of the Empire builders is quarterback Charles Dowdell, who played for the Sioux City Bandits in 2015.
Dowdell had passed for 2,738 yards, rushed for 442 and passed for 63 touchdowns going into a 55-44 win over the Nebraska Danger last week, improving the Spokane record to 13-4.
In his 2015 campaign with the Bandits, Dowell passed for 2,148 yards and passed for 48 touchdowns to earn the Champions Indoor Football league most valuable offensive player award.
The Sioux Falls quarterback, Lorenzo Brown, is also familiar to Siouxland indoor and outdoor fans. As a collegian, Brown directed the University of Sioux Falls to a 29-0 record and back-to-back Great Plains Athletic Conference and NAIA national titles.
The Storm advanced to Saturday’s title game with a 54-28 win over Cedar Rapids, which is quarterbacked by Dylan Favre, a nephew of former NFL star Brett Favre.