By Eric Butler: FNM correspondent
When longtime team member Pam Bernier died from breast cancer last summer, her Ultamitts teammates were forced to find a replacement.
But not right away.
In their first game after her death, the Ultamitts softball team decided to play without a second baseman — placing a rose instead at Bernier’s usual spot on the field.
As it turns out, moments like that and many other sportsmanslike gestures from the Clovis team have not gone unnoticed. The Ultamitts, as a team, will be inducted into the New Mexico USSSA Hall of Honor on Saturday.
Michelle Chadwick, Dede Gutierrez, Kenda Sue Dickinson and Bernier were among the original members of the team back when it was formed in 1992.
Othena Smith has been the coach for the Ultamitts from the beginning.
“Pam was kind of her assistant,” Chadwick said. “We’re tickled to death (about the induction). We’ve got some things planned for her (Smith) on Saturday.
“She’s kind of been the glue. For example, my mom is 85 and she’s been real sick and yesterday I was having a terrible day,” she added. “So I just picked up and called my coach for moral support.”
Others who have been part of the Ultamitts for the most part of this decade include Lisa Leos, Angela Sudderth, Kerri Ennis and Tori Cole. The team will be recognized tonight at a New Mexico Scorpions hockey game.
“We play in tons of tournaments. We’ve been to nationals a couple of times and finished second in the Custom (Softball Classic, in Clovis), but our pride and joy is in our sportsmanship,” “They may have made us mad back in the third inning or whatever, but at the end of it we always say ‘Good game,’” Chadwick said.
Clovis’ Stuart Stratton will be similarly honored with a place in the slow-pitch softball association’s state Hall of Fame as an individual.
“It’s probably more about what you put into the sport,” said Stratton of his selection.
“I think it’s because they ran out of people to nominate,” he joked.
Seriously, though, Stratton was an integral member of the Guy’s Electric team — coached by Guy Leeder — that won Class B state slowpitch championships in 1994, 1995 and 2000.
A member of the Clovis Wildcats baseball team in high school, Stratton paved his way to a shot at college ball at New Mexico State by setting school records in season batting average (.606) and strikeouts by a pitcher (88) before he graduated in 1982.
Stratton still remembers when he was recruited to his brother’s softball team.
“I went to college in Las Cruces and played down there, but I kind of had some arm problems,” Stratton said. “My brother said to me that they were a little short (of members). I said, ‘Softball? It’s like a sissy game, isn’t it?’”
Obviously, Stratton was a quick convert as he went on to play for Guy’s Electric from 1984 until 2002.