Hinsdale Central softball turns 50

Red Devils from past eras revisit campus to reminisce about program's impact

Nicole Kubesh cherishes the camaraderie she had with her Hinsdale Central softball teammates before she graduated in 1991.

So she was excited when daughter Madeline, a Central freshman, followed in her Red Devil base-running footsteps.

"It's been really fun to watch her grow, and I'm just so proud of everything she's accomplishing," said Nicole, a right fielder back in the day and still in possession of her glove and varsity letters.

Madeline, a catcher playing for varsity head coach Brittany Zust, appreciates the connection that she and her mom have.

"I think it's kind of cool that we have a bond because she played when she was my age, and now I'm carrying on the legacy in high school," she said.

The two were among many celebrating the softball program's 50th anniversary Friday at Alumni Day in conjunction with a home varsity game against Oak Park-River Forest. The alums were honored at the game, part of half-century legacy that continues to have an impact on the Central community.

The event brought back a lot of fond memories for class of 1992's Kathryn Sjoholm,

"Red Devil softball was everything to me between 1988 and 1992," she commented via email, recounting how weekends with friends revolved around softball activities and conditioning. "Being a Red Devil taught us commitment, pride in ourselves, pride in our school, a training ground for work ethic, and knowing what it felt like to be academically, physically and mentally strong."

Susan Parker, class of 1989, recalled lessons from head coach Ken Schreiner about teamwork and keeping one's composure.

"He was tough on us. He was also kind and recognized that we were kids, too," Parker shared via email.

Assistant coaches also played valuable roles.

"Coach (Bob) Daman could always make us laugh. He'd make sure we stayed focused but had fun," she related. "Coach (Sandy) Verdon taught me about stepping out of my comfort zone. I had never been a catcher and she believed in me."

Kristin McDaniel, whose daughter Maisie is on the team, helped organize the Alumni Day when she learned of the program's noteworthy year.

"I'm a big supporter of women's sports and advocacy for mental health for athletes," McDaniel said, citing how Title IX opened the door for women's sports in 1972, when Central softball was launched. "I thought this 50th milestone was important to recognize and celebrate all season."

Central physics teacher Marv Breig's involvement with the team dates back to 1992, when he asked coaches if they needed a statistician and pseudo-archivist.

"(Coach Daman) found a drawer full of scorebooks and papers that dated back to Ken Schreiner's coaching days in 1978 and gave those to me," Breig recounted. "This began my quest to document what I could of the history of Red Devil softball from 1978 to today."

He was able to identify team MVPs back to 1973, but not much else from those first few seasons.

"We have essentially no data – no individual numbers, no game scores, no win-loss totals," said Breig, adding that Alumni Day was "a memory which I will treasure for years."

For Parker, stats were secondary to fun times with teammates.

"I remember screaming Bon Jovi songs at the top of our lungs in the locker room, calling (teammate) Carrie Iser off the mound to tell her a joke, fun bus rides with no AC," she detailed. "It was fun but we were always prepared to compete."

Sjoholm said experience strongly influenced her career path.

"I became a nationally board certified teacher and a coach directly because of my Red Devil softball commitment," she stated. "Four very formative years in the Red Devil program exponentially impacted many more young students and athletes by developing us into strong future community leaders."

Nicole Kubesh said she felt a wave of nostalgia on Friday.

"Being on the field again and high-fiving all the girls, and seeing Madeline's face, it was really a special moment," she remarked.

Madeline was also stirred by the multi-generational gathering.

"It was cool to hear some of the stories from when my mom was in high school and how things were different - bringing it back to the '90s!" said Madeline, eliciting a laugh from Mom.

Sjoholm expressed a desire to renew her commitment to Central softball.

"I hope to help reach out to alumni and really grow our turnout next year. Thank you to Hinsdale Central Red Devil players, coaches and parents for inviting us and so warmly receiving us this past Friday," Sjoholm said. "It was heartwarming to say the very least. I knew I'd come back to my Red Devil softball home. It feels amazing to be a Red Devil forever."

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean