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Umentum family to be honored at Boys of Summer tourney

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

Andrew Pekarek, Press-Gazette Media (original story)

DENMARK, Wisc. – The clothesline was put to the test every summer at the Umentum household.

A collection of eight brothers and their numerous fastpitch softball uniforms made sure of it.

“It was kind of a joke when we were younger,” Dan Umentum said. “People would say stuff like, ‘Do you guys have another pair of clothes other than a uniform?’ It was usually almost every day playing for us back then.”

Burt Umentum added, “All summer if we weren’t baling hay, we were playing ball.”

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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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Wilber Lime wins seventh title in Rice Lake Aquafest

Friday, June 29th, 2012

RICE LAKE, WI – It was the same two teams – Wilber Lime of Galesville and The Bar of Appleton Athletics – who locked horns in the championship game a year ago; and who now met once again, battling for the 34th annual 2012 Aquafest Men’s Fastball crown, June 15-17 at Tate Park in Rice Lake.

But this time the result was reversed as Wilber – the winners of six previous Invitational titles – rallied from a 7-2 second inning deficit to prevail in a slugfest, 15-7.

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Superstar sponsor enters the ISC Hall of Fame

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

DENMARK, WI – When asked about his playing career, John Miller quickly downplays his abilities by saying “I was an average hitter and terrible fielder.”

He might be shortchanging his talent some, but when it comes to his contributions to men’s fastpitch softball, the man is a superstar.

Miller will certainly go down in fastpitch history as one of the greatest sponsors ever to field a ball club. And there were more than just one.

The 73-year-old Miller has been involved in the sport since 1952 when he began playing as a 14-year-old. But the turning point in his still ongoing 60-year fastpitch career can be traced to 1967.

That’s the year he bought Circle Tap, a sports bar located near Denmark (pop. about 2,000 near Green Bay). And that’s the year that Circle Tap began building its way to a Wisconsin fastpitch hot spot. All because of moving some earth and raising a fence.

“The only way I could get on a team was to build a ball diamond at Circle Tap,” Miller said.

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Someone to know: Josh Johnson, The Bar of Appleton

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Josh Johnson, left, of the The Bar of Appleton (WI), was selected the Most Valuable Player of the NAFA Open Worlds Series. With him is Andrew Blackshaw, from Australia, who was named to the All World team after pitching The Bar to the championship.
Courtesy Photo

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BAY MINETTE, AL – The journey from the throwing the first pitch to reaching that often elusive point of being able to say, “by golly I think I’ve got it!” is not an easy journey for most fastpitch pitchers.

Many give up after realizing that mastering THIS trade takes lots of practice, lots of gumption, and lots of determination.

But for the survivors – those who toil relentlessly to master the craft, for them come the rewards.

Josh Johnson is one such survivor. And 2010 has indeed been full of rewards.

Here’s a sampling: At the Decatur Herald & Review Shootout, Johnson was selected the Most Valuable Player after helping The Bar of Appleton claim the championship. And at the NAFA World Series Open tournament, Johnson carted off the Most Valuable Player award in leading The Bar to the title at Middleton, WI.

In 2010, The Bar muscled into the top-tier in the world after winning prestigious tournaments at Walcott, Iowa, the Aurora 4th of July, and the Decatur Shootout. The Appleton juggernaut also finished second in the Boys of Summer tourney along with finishing 11th in the 48-team ISC World Tournament.

And figuring in The Bar’s success was Johnson, who had a .444 batting average (4-for-9) in the ISC World Tournament, along with 2 RBI. (Statistics for the NAFA Open, not available.)

“Josh was our offensive MVP hands down,” said Manager, Jesse Delorit. “He led the team in RBI’s, hits and home runs. Josh was also excellent for us on the mound. He has all the pitches, including a rise change. He is able to beat any team in the world.”

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Tom Crouch performs at All World level

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Tom Crouch at bat for the Bar of Appleton (WI).
Furnished photo

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“Dad taught me that to be good you have to play and practice all the time. There are so many great players that if I didn’t work at it, I wouldn’t be playing at the major level.” – Tom Crouch

DEKALB, IL – Jeramie Holman well remembers the play. Holman unleashes a pitch and the batter drills the ball into the hole. Holman whirls and watches as his shortstop races to his right, lunges and snares the ball.

And for a split-second, Holman worries: Would Tommy Crouch be able to make the play?

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