Ft. Myers, Fl..–Two Greater Cincinnatians were among the nine individuals who were inducted into the USSSA National Hall of Fame November 21st at a banquet ceremony held in their honor at the USSSA National Meeting at the Sanibel Harbor Marriott Resort & Spa in Ft. Myers, Fl.
Also inducted were: Larry Carter (OK) and Scott Streibel (MN) in the male player category; Cecil Alford (NC) in the manager category; Bob Holland (MD) in the executive category; Robert Parrish (MO) in the sponsor category; Duane Posavetz (FL) in the umpire category; and Rick Marz (NY) in the special service longevity category.
Mary Jane “M. J.” Ranz played in the USSSA program for thirty consecutive years since 1979 when she was sixteen and won an 18-under Youth World Tournament with Sweeney Chevrolet. She was named to the Girls Youth All-World team three consecutive years with Sweeney from 1979-2001. Ranz later won USSSA World Tournaments in the Women’s A program with Northside K of C in 1985 and Kinder Sharks in 2000, 2002 and 2004, and in the Women’s Masters programs in 1999 with Northern Cincinnati Sports Medicine, and in 2001 and 2005 with Ty-1-On. Her 2007 Ty-1-On team also won a USSSA “B” World title. She has been named to five Women’s A All-World teams and was the Women’s A World Tournament MVP in 2002 with Kinder Sharks. She has also won numerous All-Tournament honors at USSSA NIT’s and State Tournaments. Ranz is also a past winner of the Richard Pollak award in 2002.
Locally Ranz has been named to several All-City teams, was the 1995 Greater Cincinnati “Player of the Year,” was named to the Greater Cincinnati All-Century team in 2000, and was inducted into the Norwood Sorrento’s Greater Cincinnati Softball Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2007 she was named the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Sports Association Masters “Sports Woman of the Year.”
USSSA Hall of Fame member Colleen Needham, who managed Empress Chili to three consecutive World Series titles from 1988-’90, presented Ranz at an induction banquet attended by over 600 people.
“Not many Hall of Famers can claim that they’ve won a Girls Youth World, Women’s B World, Women’s A World, and Women’s World Series title,” said Needham. “She was a champion at every level.”
Needham said that Ranz “matured into a great hitter, a versatile defender and an excellent pitcher.
“She could also bat left or right-handed,” said Needham. “She hit the gaps and was a clutch rbi hitter.”
Softball was “a passion for M. J. for over forty years,” continued Needham. “She loved playing it, watching it and talking about it.
“You deserve this induction into the USSSA National Hall of Fame,” summed up Needham. “And I’m glad I could be here to share it with you.”
“I’m very honored to be here and to be inducted,” said Ranz after congratulating the other inductees.
Ranz said she played USSSA exclusively throughout her career, early on “playing against all the top teams, then I joined them. And having an opportunity to play with them was just awesome. They were from all over the United States.”
The people who influenced Ranz the most “were my family, especially my mom and dad,” she remarked. “They’re 88 now and they don’t travel well, but I know they’re thinking of me right now.
“When I found out about this it was a year ago on a Saturday,” recalled Ranz. “And the Thursday before that I found out my brother had cancer so it was a very emotional time for me. But he got through it and he’s in remission and he’s here tonight.”
“I want to thank all the people who came down here for me,” concluded Ranz. “I’m very lucky to be in this organization and very excited to be in the Hall of Fame. Thank you.”
From 2000-2009, Tim Cocco established himself as one of the premier players in the game with such teams as Chase/Reece/Roosters, Sunbelt Mizuno, Sunnyvale/Worth, Bellcorp, Fence Brokers/LaserVision/Worth, Long Haul, and Jean Shoppe. During those ten years, he was a statistical leader in USSSA World Series play in batting average (1st at .663), home runs (2nd at 60) and rbi’s (2nd at 149). He led the World Series in home runs with champion Chase/Reece/Roosters (NC) in 2002 and was named World Series MVP. His Bell Corp team finished second in both 2005 and 2006, and Cocco was named to the All-World Series team both years, and also as the 2005 World Series Outstanding Offensive Player. Cocco led the Series in home runs again in 2009 with Jean Shoppe despite the fact that the Tennessee team finished 7th and only played four games. Also that year he garnered his fourth All-World Series selection in eight years.
Cocco has won countless All-Tournament, Home Run Leader, and Outstanding Offensive Player honors during his career. He also captured the USSSA National Home Run Hitting Title at Disney’s Wide World of Sports three consecutive years from 2009-2011, and in 2010 was named to the All- Disney Team.
Hank Bassett, who was inducted into the USSSA Hall of Fame in 2006 while working for the Hillerich & Bradsby Company and now serves USSSA as its Equipment Director, introduced Cocco at the banquet.
Bassett recalled how Cocco worked his way up to the major level, starting his career with Red’s Boys of Verona, Ky. eventually breaking into the major program with R & D.
“He started as an outfielder,” recalled Bassett, “then incurred a knee injury and developed into one of the game’s most potent left-handed power hitters, amassing a large number of home run championship titles in tournaments along with being named the offensive most valuable player several times.”
Bassett pointed out that despite the fact that Cocco played with an “A” team – Jean Shoppe – the last five seasons, which limited the number of home runs his team could hit, he nevertheless “managed to set a new high in total home runs and runs-batted-in and was named the Offensive Player of the Year in Conference USSSA.
“Jean Shoppe’s biggest problem was finding a good enough hitter to bat behind him and protect him – make the other team pitch to him,” said Bassett. “They wanted big numbers out of him and that’s what he gave them. During the five seasons he played with them he had eighteen Conference tournaments in which he hit ten or more home runs. At one of them he drove in an astounding 54 runs. He had that hitter’s mentality that he didn’t like to walk, averaging barely a walk a weekend, but he could flat hit the ball out with anyone.
“Prior to becoming a part of USSSA, when I was representing Hillerich & Bradsby as their slow pitch marketing manager, I was fortunate to have him swinging our bats,” said Bassett. “Over the 21 years I was with H & B, Tim was among the very best power hitters we had representing the company and that encompasses a very large number of some of the game’s all-time greats.”
“This is a huge honor, I’m truly blessed,” said Cocco to the large banquet crowd. “To me, this (Hall of Fame banquet) is the greatest thing in softball.”
Cocco then turned to USSSA CEO/Executive Director Don DeDonatis and remarked, “I’d like to thank you personally, Don. You run a great program. Without you we don’t have a program.”
Cocco then thanked his family, teammates and sponsors.
“The people I’d like to thank first of all is my family, especially my wife Stephanie,” said Cocco. “I’ve got six kids and when I call her on Friday night, she says, ‘how’d you do? Did you win.’ I truly love her. I have a truly supportive wife.
“I love you and thank you,” said Cocco.
“I also want to thank all my teammates,” continued Cocco. “I’ve played with numerous Hall of Fame members, but honestly I would rather play with ten great teammates than ten great ball players. It gets lost in this day and time but I remember the great teammates more than I do the great players. I hope I leave that as one of my legacies.
“Also I want to thank the sponsors,” said Cocco. “People don’t realize what the sponsors do. I feel like I played with by far the best sponsors in the game. They were awesome. I’d especially like to thank Brett Helmer of Easton Sports and Hank (Bassett) and Dennis Turner of Louisville Slugger. They’ve been great to me. They’ve been so loyal to me it’s just awesome. It’s been a great experience for me.”
Cocco concluded by pledging to “give back to everybody” as his softball career winds down.
“I want to spend more time coaching the kids and mentoring other young athletes to show them the love and passion for the game,” said Cocco. “The main thing I want them to realize is that it doesn’t matter where you come from, anything is possible if you want it bad enough and try hard enough.
“Thank you and I’m greatly honored.”
USSSA announced that it would induct ten more individuals into its Hall of Fame during its 2014 National Meeting November 16-22 at the Omni Resort in ChampionsGate, Fl. They are (category in parentheses): Tony DeDonatis, MI (Executive), Doug Stark, AZ (Executive), Coy Honeycut, SC (Sponsor), Ken Franzen, IL (Umpire), John Dye, MD (Umpire), Chris Walker, AK (Sponsor), Dirk Androff, FL (Male Player), Bob Hughes, AK (Male Player), Carl Rose, GA (Male Player), Tina May-Tuck, OH (Female Player).