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Sept. 1, 2010

By Tom Frare

LACEY, WASH. - In June, 22 teams took the field at the Regional Athletic Complex here for a one-of-a-kind tournament. No awards were offered or given and none were expected.

The focus of the First Annual Player Memorial Tournament was to honor Senior Softball players from the Northwest that had passed away. Nine players were remembered and honored at this tournament.

In the fall of 2008, our friend and fellow ball player Dick “The Bat Man” Venesky lost a four-year battle with cancer. We decided to honor Dick with a memorial tournament (The Bat Man Memorial) on the weekend of June 20, 2009. Then another bomb was dropped. On May 30, 2009 less than three weeks before the tournament, Chuck Coughran, another dear friend and team mate died while walking in from the outfield during a softball game. Plans were quickly changed for the tournament and a memorial service for both Dick and Chuck was held during the tournament. We had originally intended that “The Bat Man Memorial” would be an annual event.

In early 2010 as we contemplated the Memorial Tournament, another of our friends was diagnosed with terminal cancer. At that point, we decided to attempt to honor all fallen Northwest softball players. We talked with the City of Lacey and they graciously agreed to allow us to have an area to place pavers honoring past players. Once the word got out of what we were trying to do, the tournament took on a life of its own and we didn’t have to do much to recruit teams.

On June 12, 22 teams from the Northwest, Canada, and family and friends arrived to honor the past players. At noon we gathered at a grassy slope near the children’s play area to honor our friends. As each honoree was announced a former team or family member honored the player with a short bio. The following players were honored:

Bob Bollinger June 13, 1935-June 23, 2003 from Seattle 70s.

Doug Challoner March 18, 1947-Nov. 13, 2009 Molson Bulldogs.

Chuck Coughran Jan. 16, 1944-May 30, 2009 Northwest Silver 60s.

Bob Ferguson Sept. 27, 1935-Jan 22, 2008 Seattle 70’s.

Dale Harris May 8, 1939-Nov. 13, 2007 First American Title 65’s.

Billy Owings July 8, 1934-Aug. 19, 2003 Seattle, 70’s.

Robert “Bubba” Sanchez Oct. 18, 1950-Dec. 15, 2004 JABOG.

Jim “Sherm” Sherman Aug. 4, 1938-Mar. 25, 2010 WE Ruth Softball.

Dick “The Bat Man” Venesky April 3, 1949-Nov. 23, 2008 Premier 50.

The ceremony concluded with the unveiling of the pavers with the players name, date of birth and death as well as team affiliation followed by a moment of silence to remember all who had passed on and the playing of “Taps” by a member of Northwest Silver 60s. It was a special time for all of us to remember our friends. It was also a time to be thankful for what we have which is our family, friends and today.

The Players Memorial will be an annual event played on the second weekend in June. We already have teams signed up to play and unfortunately as the cycle of life continues more players to honor. Any senior team can enter the tournament and honor any past member of their team. All proceeds from the event over expenses are committed to the Memorial Fund. We look forward to seeing you on the ball fields. For more information regarding the tournament teams, contact Tom Frare 360-507-6297 or email

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