By BOB CARTER / The Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune Sports Editor
July 31, 1984
CHILLICOTHE, MO – The Mary Jane Hicks family held its typical fun-loving summer reunion at the Tomahawk homestead Sunday afternoon.
Like many reunions before, fastpitch softball was the talk of the day.
But this time, there was special emphasis placed on the upcoming ASA National Fastpitch Softball Tournament scheduled to open at Phil Welch Stadium in St. Joseph on Friday, Sept. 7.
Mary Jane’s three sons, will hold another reunion on the national softball turf, but this time, they’ll be playing on opposing teams.
Al, at a ripe age of 44, is Mr. Handy Man on the St. Joseph Walnut-Woods team, the tournament’s host team.
Al, called “Papa” by his teammates, will be used in his familiar role as the team’s designated hitter.
The popular St. Joseph police officer, who has played for five different St. Joseph softball teams, knocked the cover off the ball last season, batting a sizzling .400. This season, Al is batting a respectable .300.
Although gradually losing his foot speed, Al hasn’t lost his tough at the plate, ranking among the best Walnut-Woods has to offer.
“I still see the ball good and I make contact,” Hicks said. “That’s the key to hitting.”
How many playing years are left? Hicks isn’t sure, but he’s not ready to hang up the cleats yet.
“I love the game,” he said. “As long as I can contribute and someone wants me, I’ll continue to play. I’ve been playing ball ever since I took up walking. It’s been an important part of my life.”
Ted, 31, plays third base for nationally-ranked Decatur (IL) ADM. He is considered one of the country’s top right-handed softball hitters.
His record certainly speaks for itself. Since his start in 1976, Ted has hit at a .350 clip and averaged 20 homers a season. That’s a bundle of homers in fastpitch softball.
ADM finished first in the national tournament three years ago and has been the bridesmaid team the past two years. Ted has played in five straight national tournaments, earning first-team All-American honors four times and second-team honors the other year.
In 1979, Ted was invited to the Pan American softball tryouts. He won a spot on the U.S, team and proceeded to set a Pan-Am games record for batting average.
Last year, he turned down an invitation to the Pan American tryouts.
“I needed the time off,” Hicks said. “The one thing I regret is that Lori Stoll and I would have put Chillicothe on the map.” Stoll was a standout pitcher on the Pan Am women’s team.
In 1976, Al and Ted, playing side by side at third and short, respectively, were key figures in powering St. Joseph Roto Rooter to a national championship.
Both agree those national championship days playing together bring back fond memories.
“I’ve always been Ted’s second best fan behind mom,” Al said. “I remember when he was growing up. He played ball in the backyard. He gave me fits the. I might be prejudice, but I believe he’s the best hitter in the game today.”
Like Al, Ted has nothing but praise for his brother.
“He’s been a strong inspiration for me,” Ted said. “when I started playing fastpitch softball in 1976, Al helped me a lot. He got me up when I got down.”
The talented brothers also played together for Springfield CMI when it hosted the 1978 nations softball tournament.
CMI placed third that season. Ted was voted the MVP of the tournament and set a record for most hits (16) which stands today.
Ted later starred fro second place Cedar Rapids in the 1990 national tournament.
No. 1 FAN
Lovable Mary Jane, mother of eight, is no ordinary mother. She cooks, cleans house, babysits her many grandchildren and even has her own garden. But most of that comes with the territory of being a parent.
What makes Mary Jane extra special are her strong family ties and a great love for all sports.
“We were taught at home that many times it takes more than your best to get the job done,” Al said. Both Al and Ted are 110 percent performers.
Mary Jane’s smiling face can be seen at nearly every major tournament the two teams play in.
“I don’t know how she does it. She never wears down,” Ted said. “I guess that’s where we get our competitive spirit. I seem to play better when she’s in the stands.”
Gary Hicks, the oldest of the three boys, was also a better than average hand at playing softball. But a car wreck cut short his softball career.
“Gary was limited on what he could do after the wreck,” Mary Jane said. “He just lost interest.”
But Gary is carrying on the winning Hicks’ tradition on the links.
“Gary has really excelled in golf,” Mrs. Hicks said.
With support like that how can they lose? Come national time in St. Joseph, you can bet Mary Jane and family will be in the stands whooping and hollering for Al and Ted