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I’m counting down to the NAFA World Series

Sunday, July 21st, 2013


DES MOINES, Iowa – Just 17 days remain before the first pitch of the 2013 NAFA World Series in Des Moines. With that first pitch comes non-stop action from August 7 to 18. For a sports reporter and photographer, that’s a long challenging haul covering dozens of games in five divisions – about 160 teams in all.

I covered the World Series in 2010 when it was also held in Des Moines. And when NAFA Executive Director Benjie Hedgecock asked me for a return engagement, I said yes. Although my wife had some trepidation over my taking up the challenge again. She reminded me how tired I was when I returned home to California.

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Humble sponsor inducted into the NAFA Hall of Fame

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

In 2009, the Bar on The Avenue Buzz of Appleton, Wisc. won the NAFA World Series AA championship. The team sponsored by Mark Miller, consisted of front row, Glen Nelson, Brett Kadlec, Tony Hall, Scott Gillmore, Randy Hartkopp, Chance Schmid, Tony Schaaf, and Bruce Pirkel. The back row, Matt Paulsen, Paul Skora, Todd Lubkeman, Jay Gilray, Wayne Gaura, Trevor Gaura, Jason Gerum, Bob Loshek, and Mark Nelson. Missing from photo are Mark Schroeder, Dale Horton, and Al Weidner. Contributed photo by Wisconsin NAFA Fastpitch.

APPLETON, Wisc. – You won’t find many fastpitch softball awards and trophies hanging on the walls of Mark Miller’s tavern, The Bar of Appleton. And that’s just fine with him. As a sponsor he isn’t in the sport for personal glory. In fact, Miller does everything possible to avoid the spotlight.

That’s Mark, agree two of his best fastpitch friends, Darren Derricks and Tony Schaaf.

“He’s extremely humble,” said Schaaf, who manages the Bar on The Avenue Buzz, one of Miller’s sponsored teams. “He would rather sit back in the stands and watch the game than have it be anything about himself. What he does for fastpitch has never been about him, but for the game.”

What Miller has done for fastpitch is both generous and remarkable in its scope. Now 51, he began playing fastpitch at 15 until he was 30 – not a long-playing career as an outfielder. But when he stepped off the field, he didn’t leave the game behind. He continued on as a sponsor.

But unlike most sponsors, Miller took a different route in passing out the bucks as the owner of The Bar in Appleton, says Schaaf.

“Mark believes that instead of combining teams and making one great team, why not take that money and create 12 teams instead of one,” he said. “He would rather sponsor a lot of grass root teams than one that wins titles.”

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