Top Gun Hall of Fame Inductees
Rich Pratt is so deserving on so many levels of his HOF induction. He has served the Top Gun association as a board member, manager of a Triple Grand Slam team and other championship teams and as a player on those same championship teams. He has meant so much to Top Gun softball in the fact that he has brought so many players into the association that are still playing. He has been a big contributor to the association as a board member and shows unwavering support everything Top Gun softball. As a player he has to be one of the best outfielders especially running down balls that most outfielders would not even sniff at much less catch. He became a very polished hitter and one that can be counted on when the game needed a big moment. He has been a great manager/coach of a Triple Grand Slam team and has had huge success with his teams. He is really what is know as a triple threat and the association is grateful he has stayed with Top Gun softball and was so honored with his well deserved HOF induction in 2018.
Paul Lederman is the type of player that any manager or teammate wants on his team. He is so talented that it is a bonus to be his teammate. Not only is he skilled but his quiet demeanor hides the competitive nature he possesses. He is a five tool player. He is fast and can play numerous positions both infield and outfield. He can hit for high average and with power. He throwing arm is strong and very accurate and his baserunning skill is downright off the charts. His knowledge of the game and how he uses that knowledge makes him a player that a manager and teammates can count on with the game on the line whether he playing defense or hitting. Probably one of the most coveted player in Top Gun in the last 10 years. An easy choice to be part of the Top Gun HOF class of 2018.
Ed Balinger has been a mainstay in Top Gun softball for so long as a player and manager. He has contributed to the associations success and growth due to his ability to recruit players and put together teams that compete at the highest level no matter what age group and division. As a player he is the phrase “Steady Eddy”. This is the type of player you always want on your team someone who shows up and then shows up on the field. As a player he was smooth in the field as well as at the bat. As a manager, with his wife Doreen he exhibited those same qualities. He is the type of manager and player that you as a player wanted to play for and with. His selection into the Top Gun HOF was well overdue and most deserving for all he has done for Top Gun Senior Softball association.
Don Ludwig is considered one of the best pitchers ever to play in the Top Gun Senior Softball. He pitched on two Master World championship team in 2001 and 2004. He has been on many all tournament team selections. However he is a fierce competitor, but never one to put himself above the team as displayed in a Spring World Tournament in Mesquite. He pulled himself due to the fact that he felt he would hurt the team’s chances of winning the tournament by either pitching or hitting. That gesture was felt by the entire team and was noted after the team had won that tournament. That is the ultimate competitor and with that attitude he was very successful on all Top Gun teams for over 15 years and thus his selection as a HOF player that any team would want pitching for them. He was also a really great hitter as well and when he did not pitch played other positions with skill and ability that never hurt his team’s chances to win. His HOF resume is more than just wins but is a testament to the player he is on every Top Gun team he played for.
Dave Duarte is what is referred to as a five tool player. His skill and talent are respected by his fellow teammates and opponents alike. This type of player will always deliver plays that other players are not even going to attempt. His hitting is so consistent that you might as well just fill in the score sheet before every game for him even before he comes to bat. These type of players are a team’s dream to have because he just shows up and then shows up when it really counts. His HOF selection was an easy choice and one well deserved.
Bill Poe is a quiet, not flashy but steady player in the field and at bat. What makes him special is the fact that he is not flashy but the type of player that you know will make the right play and deliver at the bat when it counts the most. Consistent and very admired teammate who never seeks recognition. He always contributes to his team in positive ways and can always be counted on’ These qualities and his numerous all tournament awards and championships are what makes him HOF worthy.
Steve Vin Curek
Steve Vin Curek is perhaps one of the most consistent players to play in Top Gun Senior Softball association. His consistency in both the field and at the plate is what sets him apart from other players and therefore why he is in the Top Gun HOF. He has been a major contributor to all of the teams he has played with within Top Gun. He numerous All Tournament selections and being a member of World Championships teams including the Top Gun Elite 60 team that won the Triple Grand Slam of SSUSA is definitely his shining moment in his Top Gun softball career of which is not concluded. Therefore this is why he was selected for induction into the Top Gun Senior Softball association Hall of Fame class of 2016.
Bob is a student of the game, a mentor, and an excellent player. Always trying to improve his game and help others do the same with theirs. Bob has also contributed to the success of his teams which has earned him 19 championship rings and 9 all-tournament/MVP awards. Bob inspired and is one of the organizers of the annual Wounded Warriors Project Benefit senior softball tournament which honors the wounded veterans of the military actions following the events of September 11, 2001 plus those members of our armed forces (both past and present) for their service, dedication, and sacrifices for our country. This event has raised over $7,500 after its first two tournaments. For his time and effort in organizing this event, Bob received a Certificate of Recognition Award from California Legislature Assemblywoman Melissa A. Melendez, 67th Assembly District for outstanding volunteer service to the community and to America’s veterans. His sudden passing touched all who knew him very deeply. He passed away on November 22, 2016 and on December 4, 2016 was posthumously inducted into the TopGun Hall of Fame.
Dave Seitz joined the Top Gun Senior Softball association in 2001. In his first season with the Top Gun II team they won the 2001 Master World Championship in the 50 AA division. He was selected MVP during that tournament and won many more all tournament awards. He said he was very fortunate to have played on so many championship teams within his over 15 years in the Top Gun association. In 2004 he once again was member of the 2004 Master World 50 Major division championship team. As a middle infielder he turned 13 double plays during that tournament for which he said was one of his two greatest teams in all of the years he played tournament softball. He has also served the Top Gun association as a manager, board member as Vice President. During his tenure as manager with 55, 60 teams his team won 5 major ring level tournaments with Senior Softball. His selection into the Top Gun HOF in 2016 was as a player but he reminded everyone during his HOF speech he got there because of so many others that helped him along the way.
Don McCage was inducted into the Top Gun Hall of Fame Class of 2015 in the “Player” category. Red Simmons, 2010 TGHOF member described Don as one of the finest hitters he ever competed with. But more importantly Red shared that Don is a quality human being and one of the finest men you will ever meet. Kevin Evans 2015 TGHOF member added that Don’s contributions on and off the field enabled his Top Gun teams to be at the top of charts in competition and sportsmanship. Dan Haveron, 2015 TGHOF member also shared that Don served many years as the right hand man for Red Simmons, assisting with the communications with Top Gun and SSUSA regarding tournaments and team rosters. Don attributed his success in senior softball to the endless support from his wife and family.
Dan Haveron was inducted into the Top Gun Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Dan was recognized for his outstanding managerial skills and accomplishments while leading teams for nine seasons in the 65+ and 70+ age groups. Kevin Evans 2015 HOF shared that Dan leads by example creating a competitive team atmosphere with a focus on sportsmanship. His teams represent the highest standards set by Top Gun Senior Softball and are well respected in the softball community. Dan’s teams have amassed seven national titles with a World Title in 2011 and two Spring World Championships in 2011 & 2012. His accomplishments as a manager places him in the top three all-time winningest managers in Top Gun Senior Softball history.
Kevin Evans was inducted into the Top Gun Hall of Fame Class of 2015. He was recognized for his involvement as a Top Gun Senior Softball “Manager and Player”. Steve Vin Curek shared “that Kevin was more than a manager and player but a true friend and fellow teammate”. Through his years of involvement since 2004, Kevin has been awarded eleven All-Tournament Awards and the teams he managed have earned 15 Major Championships. Dan Haveron TGHOF 2015 member offered this observation. “Kevin through his involvement as a player, manager and Board member/President helped raise the Association from a local senior softball club to a nationally recognized organization”. Dan further shared, that “Kevin’s positive leadership on and off the field, can be measured by the accomplishments of the Association and the teams he managed for the past 10 years”.
Barbara Avery was inducted into the Top Gun Hall of Fame Class of 2015 in the “Honorary” category. John Ihrig, 2010 TGHOF member described Barbara as one of the driving forces that established women’s competitive softball in San Diego County. John further added that having Barbara on the Top Gun Board of Directors validated the growth and expanse of women’s competition softball on the national level. Bob Johnson, 2012 TGHOF member shared that having Barbara involved on the board of directors since 2001 helped launch the recreational slow pitch softball movement in San Diego and Southern California. Since joining the Top Gun Board of Directors, Judy has been a longtime supporter of the Association and has continued to be one of the finest ambassadors in Top Gun.
Judy Bezverkov was inducted into the Top Gun Hall of Fame Class of 2015 in the “Honorary” category. John Ihrig, 2010 TGHOF member described Judy as the catalyst that started women’s recreational softball in San Diego County. John further added that with Judy’s participation on the Top Gun Board of provided the impetus to encourage the expansion of a local program to a regional competitive women’s association. Bob Johnson, 2012 TGHOF member shared that Judy became involved on the board of directors in 2001 and right from the start she represented the Association with pride and promoted Top Gun Softball to all corners of the softball community. Since the beginning, Top Gun Senior Softball has been the benefactor of the vision that Judy and her co-coordinator Barbara Avery had to develop high caliber Women’s Slow Pitch softball in San Diego County. The program and their contribution to senior softball will last for generations to come.
Jim Palecek, inducted into the Top Gun Hall of Fame in 2014. Hall of Fame Member Clyde Phillips shared that Jim is one of the best senior softball pitchers in all of SSUSA. His mastery of his pitches coupled with his defensive skill up the middle is a key reason why Jim has earned eleven (11) All-Tournament honors in his thirteen years of competition. Kevin Evans shared that Jim is a true Ambassador of Top Gun Senior Softball. Having competed since 2003, Jim has participated on fourteen (14) championship teams including seven (7) World Championship (Winter, Spring and National) teams. Jim is a timely hitter driving in the fifth run of an inning or to win a game. His lifetime average is .650 with a higher percentage when the game is on the line. Kevin Evans expressed it best when he shared that Jim is a fierce competitor and expects nothing less than a victory/championship. He is a strong supporter of his fellow teammates, constantly encouraging them to do their best. Jim leads by example and is a very deserving member of the Top Gun Senior Softball Association Hall of Fame.
Roger Sandoval, inducted into the Top Gun Hall of Fame in 2014. Roger Sandoval has been involved in Top Gun Senior Softball since 1999. He competed on four World Championship teams and earned All-Tournament honors for his efforts. Roger served on the Top Gun Senior Softball Association for six years. During that time he held the Vice President position for two years and the Treasurer for four years. HOF Member John Ihrig described as Roger as the spark plug of the team. He would get a key hit or make a strong defensive play to lead his team to victory or a tournament Championship.
Carl Gustafson, inducted into the Top Gun Hall of Fame in 2014. Kevin Evans said it best when he described Carl as the catalyst that helped vault Top Gun Senior Softball to the National level. Through his seven years of involvement, Carl coached for six years and put together some very competitive teams at all levels. His teams captured three World Championship and one National title. He was the tournament director for the Top Gun Association under the “Lionshead” moniker for five years and raised the tournament from a local draw to a regional competition. As a result of Carl’s hardwork both on the local and National level, he was invited in 2006 to serve on the SSUSA National Board as the San Diego County Representative and a member of the Rules Committee. Carl also serves as a guest columnist for the SSUSA Senior Softball News and writes timely articles regarding health, competition and sportsmanship.
Rico Coronado, inducted into the Top Gun Hall of Fame in 2013. 2010 HOF member Clyde Phillips described Rico as the person who single handedly brought slow pitch softball to the forefront in San Diego County. Rico’s mark on slow-pitch softball tournaments spans over 40 years with the first USSSA Fire Cracker tournament in 1974. Rico’s career in slow-pitch softball started with the formation of “The Travelers” softball club in the early 70’s. He started playing senior slow pitch softball at the age of 55 and started his career with Top Gun as a member of a Top Gun 60’s team coached by HOF member Red Simmons. As he grew older, Rico joined the Top Gun 65’s coached by HOF member Bill Chapman and currently competes with the Top Gun 70’s team coached by Ed Ballinger. 2011 HOF member Bob Johnson said it best when he shared that “Rico has been a mentor to so many players in slow pitch softball”. Bob further added that “what Rico brings to the park is competitive drive and fire that elevates his level of play and those around him”. Friend and fellow teammate Dick Weber said it best when he described Rico as “a friend and consummate teammate”. He further stated that “Rico is a fierce competitor on the field and you root for him when he is on your team and you hate to face him on the opposing team”. Rico has amassed five championships in his career and has given his championship rings to his two daughters and granddaughter. Kevin Evans shared that “many a player cut their teeth in slow pitch softball by competing in one of Rico’s tournaments”. The success of Top Gun Senior Softball can be attributed to the quality competition players received by competing in the Fire Cracker tournament. The memories and friendships gained from playing on a team in the Top Gun Senior Softball Association is forever and to Rico Coronado, thank you for being a major part of that success.
Richard (Jake) Jacobs
Richard "Jake" Jacobs was inducted into the Top Gun Senior Softball Hall of Fame in 2013. For eighteen years Jake has competed in senior softball from the early days in La Mesa to World Championships in Las Vegas. With a handshake, 2012 HOF member Bill "Chappy" Chapman invited Jake to cut his teeth in Senior Softball by competing in Overland Park, Kansas with his team called "FHP". 2010 HOF member John Irig encouraged Jake to get more involved in Top Gun Senior Softball and talked him into managing the Top Gun 60's team during the 2000 season and he coached the team for six seasons. Jake's accomplishments as a player/manager include the 2005 Huntsman Game Championship title for the 65 AAA division. Jake also competed with 2011 HOF member Bob Johnson and his 50+ team in 2003 to capture the Huntsman Game Championships. John Irig described Jake as a true representative of Top Gun Senior Softball on and off the field. John further exclaimed about Jake's contribution to the Top Gun Senior Softball Association by serving on the Board of Directors. Jake joined forces with HOF member Red Simmons in 2007 and enjoyed a great partnership for many seasons. For six years, Jake amassed six National titles and two Spring World Championships while playing with Red's team. When 2010 HOF Member Red Simmons introduced Jake, he described him as the complete player and a consummate teammate. Whatever the situation called for Jake would give it his all and compete at the highest level. Kevin Evans shared that Jake was one of the key members of the Top Gun Senior Softball Association that spurred the organizations growth and success for all these years. It was not uncommon for Jake to invite other players regardless of their age and skill level to join the Top Gun Senior Softball family. It is due in part to his support that the Association has achieved so much. Congratulations to Richard "Jake" Jacobs as the newest member in the class of 2013 Top Gun Hall of Fame Members.
Paul Johnson, inducted into the Top Gun Hall of Fame in 2012. Hall of Fame member and Manager Red Simmons summed it up best when he described Paul as a 6’8” gentle giant and a consummate team player. Other Hall of Fame members described Paul’s contribution to the game as a team leader that leads by example. He got involved with Top Gun Softball with an invitation from HOF Member John Ihrig to come out and play with the Top Gun 65+ team managed by HOF member Red Simmons. He has had the pleasure of competing with many of the Top Gun Hall of Fame members Richard “Jake” Jacobs, Rico Coronado, Dick Williams, John Ihrig and Red Simmons and as well as many other great players in the Top Gun Senior Softball Association . Paul has continued to compete in the 70+ and 75+ age divisions. He is best known for the ability to hit the long ball and drive in runs. With a lifetime batting average over .720 and holding down the clean-up position, Paul also excels as the RBI leader since joining the Top Gun teams. During the 12 years of competition, he has won 9 championships and selected by his teammates to receive 10 All Tournament awards. Along with these accolades, Paul was also chosen as team offensive player 4 times. His consistent performance over the years is one of the reason his teams have achieved such success.
Bob Johnson, inducted into the Top Gun Hall of Fame in 2011. 2010 HOF member Clyde Phillips described Bob as an “unbelievable Manager and an even better person”. Bob played/coached Top Gun teams since 2001. Served on the Board of Directors from 01’ to 06’ and was President for three terms. He competed/coached World Championship teams in 01’ and 04’ and an 03’ victory in the Huntsman Games. 2011 HOF member David Johnson described Bob’s managerial skills “he instilled a practice ethic that equally emphasized offense and defense. He defined roles for people that fit into a team concept”. Kevin Evans shared a concept offered by Bob, “all you have to do is get two hits a game and we’ll win”. Basics skills with common sense execution were the hallmark of the teams that he coached. David Johnson shared that “His ability to hit either line made him a tough out in any game”. His career batting average was .700 with occasional power to all fields. Bob’s contribution to the Top Gun Senior Softball Association as President through his dedication and commitment elevated the awareness and status of the Association in senior softball. Under his leadership, the association added highly competitive teams in all age groups (50+ to 80+).
David Johnson, inducted into the Top Gun Hall of Fame in 2011. Top Gun HOF member Clyde Phillips stated “I would pay to watch David play softball”. David joined Top Gun Senior Softball in 1999. He served on the Top Gun Board of Directors from 99’ to 10’ and held the position of President and Treasurer. David played on two SSUSA World Championship teams in 01’ and 04. He competed in two major championships in 05 as the SPA World Champions and in 2003 as the Huntsman Game Champions. David received three All Tournament Awards in 00’; 01; and 06: He has a lifetime batting average of .650 and is best known for his defensive skills in the outfield. His cannon arm and ability to throw runners out on the bases earned him many accolades from teammates and fellow competitors. Kevin Evans described David’s contribution to the Top Gun Senior Softball Association, “He is a fierce competitor on and off the field. He is always striving to give his best effort and will accept nothing less than 100%. David’s leadership, strong commitment to service and vision contributed immensely to the overall success of his teams and to the Association”.
Dick Williams, inducted into the Top Gun Hall of Fame in 2011. HOF member Red Simmons said it best when he described Dick Williams as “a complete player that led his teams categorically both offensively and defensively”. Dick played Top Gun Senior Softball for 12 years, competed with the Top Gun 60+; 65+; and 70+ year old teams. HOF member John Irig shared this observation, “Dick is a clutch hitter that you could count on. He could provide both power and or a timely hit to win a ball game”. Dick played on 9 championship teams, earning him 15 All-Tournament awards. Jake Jacobs described Dick as an outstanding player and a teammate of the highest caliber”. He further shared that Dick was an excellent outfielder and 1st baseman and received numerous accolades from his fellow teammates. HOF member David Johnson added this comment “Dick Williams has been a great Ambassador for Top Gun Senior Softball and for the game in general”. He further shared that “Dick exemplified the human side of the senior games with his sportsmanship and respect for opponents”.
John Ihrig, inducted into the Top Gun Hall of Fame in 2010. Kevin Evans described John’s contribution to the Top Gun Senior Softball Association as ”the glue that kept the association together”. “John made things happen”. Throughout the years, John kept the Top Gun Senior Softball vision alive. He was instrumental is the life blood of the Association having served on the Board of Directors forever and a day. He assumed the role of President for over five years and is responsible for the rapid growth in membership in all age groups 50+ to 80+ year olds. John is instrumental in maintaining the solid foundation and respect that Top Gun Senior Softball has earned throughout the years. John is a solid player for his teams, holding down the hot corner and timely hitting to lead his teams to victory.
Col. Nicholas Kotas, inducted into the Top Gun Hall of Fame in 2010. Top Gun Hall of Fame Member John Irig summed it up best when he shared that “Nick Kotas was the man responsible for creating Top Gun Senior Softball in San Diego”. Col. Kotas spearheaded an idea that grew from an annual fundraising tournament for active duty military families at Miramar Naval Air Station to an association worthy of the name “Top Gun”. His leadership skills proved beneficial in creating an Association dedicated to senior softball in San Diego County and the vision to open the doors for players of all ages and abilities. As a player, Col. Kotas led by example both offensively and defensively. He anchored the first base position and was one of the strong offensive players on his team providing a powerful swing and a high batting average. Col. Kotas encouraged his teams to branch out and compete at the highest level within the SSUSA.
Clyde Phillips (SSUSA Hall of Fame 2017)
Clyde Phillips, inducted into the Top Gun Hall of Fame in 2010. Rich Pratt shared that Clyde’s contribution to Top Gun Senior Softball extends well beyond the borders of San Diego County. Clyde can be heard many a game exclaiming “It’s just slow pitch softball, Senior Softball”. Kevin Evans shared “The impact that any individual has on a team can only be measured by their heart. Clyde has played for many years, living his dream of softball competition at the highest level. On and off the field, Clyde represented everything that Top Gun Senior Softball stands for. His loyalty, dedication, and commitment to his team are what distinguish him as a leader”. Clyde has played Top Gun Senior Softball since 2004 exclusively with the Top Gun 50+ and Top Gun 55+ teams. He has competed on three World (Spring 09’ & 12’; SSUSA World 04’) Championships teams. He has been awarded four MVP awards and four All-Tournament awards. Clyde’s statistical numbers places him in the top tier of senior softball players in San Diego County. He has a lifetime batting average of .734, with a 1256 slugging percentage which best illustrates Clyde’s quote “Chicks dig the long ball”.
Red Simmons (National Slow Pitch Hall of Fame 2013)
Red Simmons, inducted into the Top Gun Hall of Fame in 2010. John Irig, 2010 Top Gun Hall of Fame member described Red’s contribution to the Top Gun Senior Softball Association as the catalyst that raised the bar as a player, manager, and Top Gun Board Member. Playing and coaching since 2007, Red’s teams collected three (3) National Titles in 2007 as a 65+ Major team; 2009 Spring World Champion – Major and in 2012 Spring World Champions – AAA division. Richard “Jake” Jacobs 2013 Top Gun Hall of Fame member described Red as a solid player offensively and defensively. His lifetime batting average of .750 places him among the top players in the Association. Kevin Evans shared that Red contribution to the Top Gun Association is second to none. His compassion and enthusiasm for the Association has led to the continued growth in all of the teams. Red continually sells Top Gun Senior Softball and extends invitations to many players in all age groups to participate in one of the finest competitive slow pitch softball programs in the country. For his outstanding performance on and off the field Red Simmons was inducted into the National Slow Pitch Softball Hall of Fame in 2013. Congratulations to Red Simmons on being selected to the 2010 Top Gun Hall of Fame.