TRAVERSE CITY — Playing, coaching, umpiring and organizing.
When it comes to softball, Barb Beckett has done it all.
Because she has been so active in so many different facets of the game for more than 30 years, Beckett is being inducted into the Michigan Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Midland on Jan. 18. She’s among 13 people who are in this year’s class and one of four being inducted for meritorious service.
“It’s fairly overwhelming because the people that are in that Hall of Fame already are huge heroes of mine when I was going through the softball ranks,” said Beckett, the Traverse City YMCA Program Director who lists Dick Honig, Bob Loveland, Billie Drake, Dick Alpers and Mark Presseau among those who have had a strong influence on her. “They have different categories — player, sponsor, mine is meritorious service, so that means I did a little bit of everything.”
Beckett got her start in the sport as a player and added umpiring duties from 1986 until 2008 — one of the earliest woman umpires in the ranks — working nine MASA state championships in men’s slow pitch, women’s slow pitch and co-ed divisions.
“I started playing softball in the late ‘70s,” said Beckett. “I started umpiring in the ‘80s. It was a huge sport back then. It still continues to be big here. It started with fast pitch and then slow pitch evolved out of the fast pitch. It was just gigantic up here.”
In 1992 she took over as District 19 MASA Commissioner, a role she continues in today. She’s also been the host and tournament director for five MASA state tournaments in Traverse City, served as the director for the Trout Festival men’s slow pitch tournament over 18 years and the Cherry Festival tournament for more than 20 years.
As the director of the YMCA softball league, Beckett has run five men’s leagues, two women’s leagues and four co-ed leagues in Traverse City, with over 100 teams annually registering.
But Beckett says the highlight of her softball career came during her time as a manager, when she helped guide her team to the 1993 Class C women’s softball state title in Flint.
“We lost our first game on Saturday, then it rained and we had to play 10 back-to-back games on Sunday and we won that Class C state tournament,” Beckett said, recalling the exhaustive run to the crown. “I don’t think anybody’s done that except us. That was an absolute highlight. We went on to win some other ones (titles), but nothing in that kind of a situation. That team was particularly special.”
This isn’t the first prestigious honor Beckett has received from the MASA. In 1995 she was given the MASA Award of Excellence, the highest award a commissioner can receive.
Beckett does see retirement from her job at the YMCA coming in the next few years, but she doesn’t see a time when her life is devoid of the sport she has been so active in for more than three decades. She lives directly across the street from the Civic Center and typically visits the softball fields three times a week when the season is going between late April through October.
“I can’t imagine that because even when I retire I’m sure I’ll have a hand in all that stuff,” Beckett said. “The ‘Y’ will always run that because there is such a huge need for it. The nice thing is I have a lot of help doing it. The umpires are a huge part of it. They do a lot of the work. It’s just a really, really good program. It’s a good sport to get into. It’s not that difficult to play and anybody can play softball. We have a Senior Men’s Softball League that’s 55-and-over. A lot of the past players still play in that. They don’t ever get out of the game.
“Once you’re in softball you just kind of keep doing it.”
Joining Beckett as a part of this year’s MASA induction class are two others from northern Michigan entering for meritorious service in Lynda Christensen of Boyne City and Beverly Neville of Petoskey.