Helmer, Wallace share Player of the Year honors
Good company breeds good things. Brett Helmer of Team Easton and Jeff Wallace of Team TPS, who live about 15 minutes from each other just north of Syracuse, N.Y., and take batting practice together, have been named Supreme Softball’s Co-Players of the Year for 1999. This marked the second time in three years that batting practice partners have been named Co-Players of the Year. Jeff Hall of Gastonia, N.C., and Rusty Bumgardner of Kings Mountain, N.C., were honored after the 1997 season. This marked the second year in a row that Wallace has been a Co-Player of the Year. He shared the honor last year with Carl Rose of Lighthouse/Worth and Hank Garris of Sierra/TPS. This also was the second year in a row that Wallace has lost the season batting lead on the last weekend of the season. He was beaten out by none other than his best friend Helmer this year — .789 to .786. Last year he finished at .7760 compared to .7762 for Wendell Rickard of Lighthouse/Worth. Wallace says he is not bothered by losing the batting title. “A lot of people might not believe this, but I was more happy to see Brett win it,” he said. “He worked hard for it.” What Wallace is bothered by is the collapse of Team TPS in the Grand Slam championship series. After dominating the season with 11 titles in 13 tournaments, Team TPS did not win one Grand Slam crown, finishing fourth, fourth, second and in a tie for fifth in the ISA, NSA, ASA and USSSA, respectively. Team TPS had a second and a third during the season — Kettering, Md., when Team Easton pulled off a double dip and Brooklyn Center, Minn., which saw two upsets at the hands of Sunnyvale Valve/TPS; Hendu’s/Long Haul/TPS won that tournament. Helmer had this to say about winning the batting title: “I would have been just as happy if Jeff won. I would have been happy for him.” Helmer said be able to work out in the gym and take batting practice “with my best friend was a huge help.” That’s one of the reasons he moved back to upstate New York from Connecticut. When asked about his season, Helmer said, “I’m happy. I thought I was consistent all season. There were a couple weekends I could have done better a little better, but you are going to have some rough weekends.” When asked about his philosophy when he steps into the batter’s box, Helmer said, “I try to have a plan going in, according to the situation. If it’s flying, I try to sit on it. But a lot of people were giving me the left side of field, and I will take it. It cut down on my home runs, but I consider myself a hitter. If they are going to give me a hole, I’m going to hit it.” For a guy so strong, Helmer will dink it to left, and run. Wow, can this guy run for a big man (6-0, 265). He had some triples and some inside-the-park home runs. He is such a good athlete, he played a lot in the outfield. Helmer was a fullback in high school and he played on the basketball team. He has been weight training for 11 years, since he was 17, and he credits that for his speed. “My high school coach got me into weight training,” he said. “I’ve always been big and strong. A lot of eating. I like to eat.” Helmer comes from a dairy farming community — Newport, near Utica in upstate New York. He has won nationals three times in power lifting. He has hit 750 pounds with the squat and deadlift and 530 with the bench press. After a ho-hum season, Team Easton stepped up and won two legs of the Grand Slam — the ISA and the ASA. And Team Easton might have won the USSSA if his blast had not be caught at the 400-foot mark by Rob Schleede of R&D;/Easton. R&D; was another surprise team down the stretch, winning the NSA and the USSSA World Series. Would Team Easton have won if Helmer’s drive had been a llittle longer? “Well, that’s hard to say,” he answered, “but obviously it was a huge momenturn turn for them and us. It was early in the tournament, so it might have put them over the edge. They played well the rest of the way. They did what they had to do to win.” Helmer said he knew “it was going to be close. The pitch was down the middle and I did not want to pull it. I thought I could drive it out. I thought I had it, but Rob made a great catch. He brought it right back. It helps when you’re 6-6.” The key to Team Easton’s success at the end? “Honestly, I think it was we did not have any pressure on us,” said Helmer, who was voted the MVP award after the ISA. “We never played up to our expectations all year, so nobody expected us to do anything . . . except us. Everybody kind of wrote us off. We used that as our momentum. But the main thing is our leadership really started to show. Ron Parnell, Darrell Beeler, Todd Joerling and Dan Schuck stepped it up big time and set a good example for the rest of us.” Would Helmer like to play on the same team with Wallace? “Sure,” he said. “TPS talked to me, but I had another year to go on my Easton contract. So it’s not going to happen anytime soon.” Helmer and Wallace have played on the same team “around here, and we played together one season (with SoJern/TPS in 1997).” Wallace told it like it was when he was asked about the Team TPS faltering in the Grand Slam events: “How did it feel? Like shit … it sucked.” He added: “It just goes to show you, stadium ball is a different game, no doubt. We picked the wrong time of the year to play like crap. Last year, it was earlier, but we finally got it going. But we will be there in the end next year. I think Robin Higginbotham (cracker jack left fielder from Team Easton) will help us a lot. He’s been on 4 or 5 championship teams in the last 2 or 3 years.” Higginbotham played for Lighthouse/Worth before. Wallace said he could not explain the zero by Team TPS in the Grand Slam events. “I don’t know why,” he said. “It was not from lack of effort. The effort was there. We just got in a lull.” Wallace said losing the batting title on the last weekend of the season again “doesn’t bother me. I got to be there 2 years in row, so I must be doing something right. I hit some balls 370, 380 for outs, so what are you going to do. That park at Cocoa was not too forgiving. But it was the same for everybody, no excuses. If I work hard, next year I will be right there again. I’ve had 3 good years. I’m ready to play again. I’ve got the itch. I’m ready to get back on the field.” And the season just ended. Wallace was asked if he wanted Helmer as a full-time teammate. “Of course I would, that’s a no brainer. Brett did what he thought was best for him. Easton gave him the chance, and obviously they have been successful. They gave him a shot, and he’s sticking to it. And that’s fine. He is going to do great things whether here or there. We work hard, and if we continue to work hard, we will be right there in the end next year. We just have to outwork everybody.” Wallace, a 6-2, 275-pounder, just turned 30. He grew up in Oswego, N.Y., playing football and baseball and wrestling in high school. He started playing tournament softball when he was 18. He eventually played for Pace and the Sporting Edge out of New York, then for New of Indiana, Sonny’s of Boston and Steele’s (the last part of the 1996 season). Wallace now lives in Phoenix, N.Y. He and his wife have three daughters. His father-in-law, Gordie Heagle, built a field out back, so he doesn’t have to go very far to take a little batting practice. He usually hit with his brother, David, who is a strong hitter in his own right. Now they have another batting practice partner in Helmer. R&D; will be Easton’s flagship team for the 2000 season. “I like our team,” Helmer said. “We’ve got a good mix of youth and veterans. We are younger at some spots, and we still have the leaders who have been there and done it all. I think we will have a good season. I think it will be close . . . the top three will be battling it out every weekend, no doubt about it. There will be other good teams — Hague, Long Haul, Sunnyvale, P&D.; There are a lot of good players out there. P&D; is going to have the Smith brothers (Jeff and Jerald).” The Smith brothers are up-and-coming power hitters from Virginia. Jeff played for JWM/Herb’s last year, Jerald for Paramount. Helmer and Wallace were an up-and-coming players a couple of years ago. They have arrived.
1999 Supreme Softball All Stars
- P — Phil Jobe, Team TPS* Miami, Fla., Age 31, .692 OBA, 58 HRs
- P — Paul Drilling, Dan Smith/Worth* Houston, Texas, Age 35, .650 OBA, 25 HRs
- C — Hank Garris, Team TPS* Naples, Fla., Age 35, .755 OBA, first with 188 HRs
- C — Wendell Rickard, Dan Smith/Worth* Hot Springs, Ark., Age 33, .742 OBA, second with 182 HRs
- 1B — Jeff Wallace, Team TPS* Phoenix, N.Y., Age 30, second with .786 OBA, 156 HRs
- 2B — Rusty Bumgardner, Team TPS* Kings Mountain, N.C., Age 30, .743 OBA, 144 HRs
- 3B — Mike Shenk, Team Easton* Ephrata, Pa., Age 33, .693 OBA, 122 HRs
- SS — Todd Joerling, Team Easton New Melle, Mo., Age 34, .750 OBA, 115 HRs
- Middle Infielder — Todd Martin, Team TPS* Eden, N.C., Age 28, .739 OBA, 129 HRs
- OF — Mark Creson, Dan Smith/Worth Phoenix, Ariz., Age 30, .669 OBA, 113 HRs
- OF — Scott Striebel, Dan Smith/Worth Minneapolis, Minn., Age 28, .705 OBA, 73 HRs
- OF — Derek Oliver, Paramount/TPS Goldsboro, N.C., Age 32, fourth with .769 OBA, 72 HRs
- Utility — Jeff Hall, Team Easton* Gastonia, N.C., Age 29, .751 OBA, 118 HRs
- Utility — Randell Boone, Team TPS Pembroke, Ga., Age 32, .753 OBA, 136 HRs
- Utility — Jim Devine, R&D;/Easton Hamilton, N.J., Age 31, .756 OBA, 144 HRs
- Utility — Keith Brockman, R&D;/Easton Greer, S.C., Age 33, .755 OBA, 104 HRs
- Utility — Rod Hughes, R&D;/Easton* Connersville, Ind., Age 31, .745 OBA, 141 HRs
- Utility — Brett Helmer, Team Easton* Liverpool, N.Y., Age 28, first with .789 OBA, 128 HRs
- Utility — John Mello, Team TPS* Johnston, R.I., Age 33, .715 OBA, 128 HRs
- Utility — Dewayne Nevitt, Team TPS Brandenburg, Ky., Age 34, .703 OBA, 148 HRs
- Utility — Carl Rose, Dan Smith/Worth* Jesup, Ga., Age 33, .690 OBA, third with 159 HRs
- Greg Cannedy, Dan Smith/Worth Concord, Calif., Age 35, .719 OBA, 38 HRs
- Al Davis, Dan Smith/Worth Okeechobee, Fla., Age 31, .704 OBA
- Randy Kortokrax, R&D;/Easton* Columbus, Ohio, Age 34, .729 OBA, 139 HRs
- David Hood, R&D;/Easton Nashville, Tenn., Age 32, .701 OBA, 129 HRs
- Lonnie Fox, R&D;/Easton Knoxville, Tenn., Age 27, .719 OBA, 148 HRs
- Jeff Smith, JWM/Herb’s/TPS Ruther Glen, Va., Age 28, fifth with .766 OBA, 100 HRs
- Larry Carter, JWM/Herb’s/TPS Oklahoma City, Okla., Age 32, .658 OBA, 132 HRs
- Tim Cocco, Hague/Resmondo/TPS Erlanger, Ky., Age 30, .711 OBA, 73 HRs
- Tim Linson, Hague/Resmondo/TPS Columbus, Ohio, Age 31, .681 OBA, 92 HRs
- Shane Dubose, Hague/Resmondo/TPS* Houston, Texas, Age 34, .718 OBA, 56 HRs
- Jim Burbrink, Hague/Resmondo/TPS Cincinnati, Ohio, Age 34, .604 OBA, 3 HRs
- John Keigley, Hague/Resmondo/TPS Bakersfield, Calif., Age 38, .602 OBA, 1 HR
- Alex Lavorico, Hendu’s/Long Haul/TPS Woodland, Calif., Age 31, .695 OBA, 103 HRs
- Ted Larson, Hendu’s/Long Haul/TPS Minneapolis, Minn., Age 37, .563 OBA, 0 HRs
- Lance Peterson, Hendu’s/Long Haul/TPS, Minneapolis, Minn., Age 35, .709 OBA, 77 HRs
- Paul Brannon, Hague/Resmondo/TPS Kings Mountain, N.C., Age 28, .678 OBA, 98 HRs
- Judson Jackson, Hague/Resmondo/TPS Starke, Fla., Age 28, .675 OBA, 90 HRs
- Jeff Ott, Sunnyvale Valve/TPS Waterloo, Iowa, Age 34, .686 OBA, 120 HRs, tops in HR frequency at 2.158
- Derrick Williams, Sunnyvale Valve/TPS Oakland, Calif., Age 31, .672 OBA, 97 HRs
- Dennis Rulli, JWM/Herb’s/TPS Los Angeles, Calif., Age 28, .687 OBA, 60 HRs
- Andy Purcell, Sunnyvale Valve/TPS San Jose, Calif., Age 29, .636 OBA, 36 HRs
- Jimmy Powers, Paramount/TPS* Roanoke Rapids, N.C., Age 37, .752 OBA, 93 HRs
- Tot Powers, Paramount/TPS* Roanoke Rapids, N.C., Age 38, .726 OBA, 91 HRs
- Jerald Smith, Paramount/TPS Ruther Glen, Va., Age 28, .634 OBA, 61 HRs
- Larry Sauceman, Team Reece Greeneville, Tenn., Age 34, .678 OBA, 97 HRs
- Ernie Montgomery, Team Reece Knoxville, Tenn., Age 33, .709 OBA, 134 HRs
Co-Players of the Year: Jeff Wallace, Team TPS, and Brett Helmer, Team Easton.
Former Players of the Year
- 1990 — Cecil Whitehead, Ritch’s/Kirk’s. (No selections in 1991-92.)
- 1993 — Charles Wright, Ritch’s-Superior/TPS
- 1994 — Jimmy Powers, Converters/Vernon’s/TPS
- 1995 — Dirk Androff, Ritch’s-Superior/TPS
- 1996 — Wendell Rickard, Lighthouse/Worth
- 1997 — Rusty Bumgardner, Shen Valley/Superior/Taylor/TPS, and Jeff Hall, Sunbelt/Easton
- 1998–Hank Garris, Sierra/TPS; Carl Rose, Lighthouse/Worth; Jeff Wallace, Team TPS.
NOTES: Todd Joerling has been honored for the sixth time since 1990. He had a string of five years in a row end last year. Dirk Androff had five selections in succession before his death after the 1997 season. Britt Hightower saw a string of four years in a row come to an end in 1998. Hank Garris has led the home run chase for the second year in a row. The Florida product hit 196 last year for Sierra/TPS, 188 this year for Team TPS. Jeff Wallace of Team TPS saw his on-base percentage lead slip away for the second year in a row on the final weekend of the season. He wound up at .786, compared to .789 for friend and upstate New York neighbor Brett Helmer of Team Easton. Wallace earned co-Player of the Year honors for the second year in a row. He lost to on-base title to Wendell Rickard in 1998, winding up at .7760 compared to .7762 for Rickard. J.C. Phelps has posted seasons of .798, .796, .770 and .758. Jeff Hall posted the best ever — .817 in 1997 — when he was co-Player of the Year with Rusty Bumgardner. Bumgardner and Wendell Rickard have been named four years in a row. Phelps (1994-96-97-98) is a four-time selection and Larry Fredieu (1993-94-95) is a three-timer. Androff, Joerling and Hightower were honored on the Softball USA team in 1990. Until this year, Tot Powers had been second team or honorable mention every year since 1993. He was a first-team selection in 1998. A four-timer and three-timer, including 1990, with two HMs or 2nd team: Carl Rose and Doug Roberson. A two-timer with three HMs or second team: Ron Parnell. Two-timers with two HMs or second team: Dan Schuck, Jimmy Powers. Repeat honorees include Jobe, Drilling, Garris, Rickard, Wallace, Bumgardner, Shenk, Martin, Hall, Hughes, Kortokrax, Helmer, Mello, Rose, Dubose, and Jimmy and Tot Powers. First-time selections: Creson, Striebel, Devine, Brockman, Hood, Fox, the Smith brothers, Carter, Cocco, Brannon, Linson, Burbrink, Keigley, Larson, Peterson, Lavorico, Jackson, Ott, Williams, Rulli and Purcell.
1998 All-Stars — P–Phil Jobe, Team TPS; Paul Drilling, Sierra/TPS. C–Wendell Rickard, Lighthouse/Worth; Jimmy Powers, Sunbelt/Easton. 1B–Jeff Wallace, Team TPS; 2B–Rusty Bumgardner, Team TPS. 3B–Mike Shenk, Team TPS; SS–John Mello, Team TPS. Middle IF–Jeff Hall, Sunbelt/Easton. OF–Todd Martin, Team TPS; Doug Kissane, Team TPS; Jason Kendrick, Sierra/TPS; Robin Higginbotham, Sunbelt/Easton; Dewayne Frizzell, Lighthouse/Worth; Larry Fredieu, Sierra/TPS. EH–Carl Rose, Lighthouse/Worth; Hank Garris, Sierra/TPS. Utility–Greg Harding, Sunbelt/Easton; Tot Powers, Sunbelt/Easton; Al Davis, Lighthouse/Worth; Darrell Beeler, Sierra/TPS; Dennis Mendoza, Lighthouse/Worth; Randy Kortokrax, Steele’s/R&D;/Reda; Rod Hughes, Steele’s/R&D;/Reda; Tom White, Wessel/Hague/SoJern/TPS; Brett Helmer, Wessel/Hague/SoJern/TPS; Howie Krause, Wessel/Hague/Sojern/TPS.
1997 All-Stars — P–Greg Cannedy, Ritch’s/Superior/TPS. C–Dewayne Nevitt, Ritch’s/Superior/TPS. 1B–Dirk Androff, Ritch’s/Superior/TPS. 2B–Rusty Bumgardner, Shen Valley/TPS. 3B–Jeff Wallace, Sojern/TPS. SS–Todd Joerling, Sunbelt/Easton. Middle IF–Jeff Hall, Sunbelt/Easton. OF–Todd Martin, Shen Valley/TPS; Brad Stiles, Lighthouse/Worth; Randell Boone, Shen Valley/TPS; Doug Kissane, Ritch’s/Superior/TPS; Jason Kendrick, Shen Valley/TPS. EH–J.C. Phelps, Shen Valley/TPS; Wendell Rickard, Lighthouse/Worth. Utility–Carl Rose, Lighthouse/Worth; Shane Dubose, SoJern/TPS.
1996 All-Stars — Phil Jobe, Shen Valley/Superior/Taylor/TPS; J.C. Phelps, SV; Dirk Androff, Ritch’s-Superior/Tri-Gems/Beloli/TPS; Rusty Bumgardner, SV; Albert Davis, SV; Todd Joerling, Sunbelt/Easton; Britt Hightower, R-S; Doug Roberson, R-S; Todd Martin, SV; Doug Kissane, Steele’s; Wendell Rickard, Lighthouse/Worth; Ricky Huggins, LH; Mike Shenk, LH; Ron Parnell, R-S; Johnny McCraw, Sunbelt.
1995 All-Stars — Butch Ovens, Shen Valley/TPS; Wendell Rickard, Lighthouse/Worth; Dirk Androff, Ritch’s-Superior/TPS; Greg Harding, Bell/Sunbelt/Easton; Rusty Bumgardner, SV; Todd Joerling, Bell; Britt Hightower, R-S; Dewayne Frizzell, Superior/Southland/TPS; Jimmy Powers, SV; Larry Fredieu, R-S; Doug Roberson, R-S; Shane Dubose, Tri-Gems/Easton.
1994 All-Stars — Rick Weiterman, Ritch’s-Superior/TPS; J.C. Phelps, Shen Valley/DJ’s/TPS; Dirk Androff, R-S; Dewayne Nevitt, Converters/Vernon’s/TPS; Jon Meyers, Williams/Worth; Todd Joerling, Bell Corp./Easton; Britt Hightower, R-S; Hank Garris, Bell; Jimmy Powers, Converters; Dan Schuck, Bell; Larry Fredieu, R-S; Ron Parnell, R-S.
1993 All-Stars — Paul Drilling, Ritch’s-Superior/TPS; Dave Steffen, R-S; Dirk Androff, R-S; Darrell Beeler, R-S; Charles Wright, R-S; Todd Joerling, Bell Corp./Easton; Britt Hightower, R-S; Larry Fredieu, Vernon’s/TPS; Steve Craven, Steele’s/Sunbelt; Carl Rose, Williams/Worth; Phil White, Bell.
1990 All-Stars — Rick Weiterman, Steele’s Silver Bullets; Paul Drilling, Ritch’s/Kirk’s; Mike Macenko, Steele’s Silver Bullets; Dirk Androff, Steele’s Silver Bullets; Carl Rose, Lighthouse/Sunbelt; Charles Wright, Ritch’s/Kirk’s; Todd Joerling, Steele’s Silver Bullets; Cecil Whitehead, Ritch’s/Kirk’s; Doug Roberson, Superior/Apollo; Britt Hightower, Ritch’s/Kirk’s; Scott Virkus, Steele’s Silver Bullets; Jim Fuller, Superior/Apollo; Monty Tucker, Steele’s Silver Bullets; Kerry Everett, Bell Corp.; Dave Johnson, Starpath.