Ray Czarnik

THE BEGINNING

My love for softball started in the early 70’s by going from park to ark with my dad to watch my brother Tom “Eggs” Czarnik play this great game of sixteen-inch softball. I remember my first time watching him play at Clarendon Park and was intrigued by the number of people surrounding the field intensely watching the game. I remember listening to some old men behind the backstop saying watch the cut over 3rd, or he will hit the line in right, and sure enough the hitter would hit the ball over 3rd or hit the right field line. I really learned the game from watching the older guys plays. The competitiveness was awesome to watch. But the respect they had for the game and for one another was what inspired me the most. I couldn’t wait to get involved.  I began playing with my friends from high school in 1977 in a neighborhood league at Wildwood Park.  In the winter of 1979 one of my buddies Laury Rose was the owner of Candlelight Jewelers and asked me to run his sixteen-inch softball team that he had sponsored for the past few years in Niles. I was thrilled to be able to run a team and knew this was something I wanted to do. I was able to talk my brother into playing for me and a few other friends of his and with my buddies together we started what would turn out to be a team that was so successful that it gave me the push I needed to take us to the next level. 

SHOOTERS SOFTBALL BEGAN

In 1985 a childhood friend of mine and I were having a few beers when we came up with the idea of starting a team where everyone had a brother that would play on the team. The E.P. Shooters played on Sundays at Brooks Park where everyone who played was related somehow to somebody else. My playing coaching and sponsorship of Shooters softball began. Then in 1990 we moved to Mt Prospect to play and here is where I began a long-standing relationship with Bob Ancona and the Staff in Mt Prospect that is as strong today as it was in 1990.

ELECTED OFFICIAL NILES PARK COMMISSIONER (2003-present)

 

I ran for Park Commissioner in Niles for a couple of reasons. First off, I wanted to bring Thor Guard Lightning detection to Niles to protect all participants of outdoor activities from the treacherous storms that move in quickly. Mainly I wanted to put a stop to games where there would be no wavering.  I watched many a time where a kids’ baseball game would be going on with lightning in the area and a coach that would say come on one more inning. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. Secondly, I wanted to get softball going again as I have seen a drop-off in participants over the years, especially with the younger group of kids. My son was going to high school and he and a bunch of his friends wanted to learn to play the game but couldn’t find any leagues to play in. They didn’t want to play in a league where they were over their heads where they would not have fun.  I wanted to do something about this. I wanted to come up with something that could work for everyone. We held meetings with team captains and umpires that were involved in our Niles leagues. We shared our ideas to keep this game growing.  We changed the way the league prize money was distributed. From a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place payout to a “Per Win” payout where everyone has an opportunity to receive some reward for winning games. Then we changed one of the divisions to a six to twelve foot arch only league where we could attract a more younger group of kids to learn the game and not struggle with the higher arch that most parks had at the time. Today we have a very strong two-division league with one being the six to twelve foot arch and the other being an unlimited arch. We can please everyone. This year we have a new league starting. It is called the “FUTURES LEAGUE” which is an instructional league for high school and college age kids. We will give them the opportunity to learn the game the right way from those who played it the right way. I want the Niles Park District to be known as the Futures League where both boys and girls can learn the sixteen-inch game from the ground up. We want to teach the history of the game and give all kids the opportunity to participate and create lifetime memories as they begin their own journey into the sixteen-inch softball world.

REBIRTH OF SHOOTER SOFTBALL

In 2010 I put together a group of young kids to play in both Niles and Mt Prospect and dedicated myself to teaching this great game to the next generation that want to carry on this tradition.  This has been a very pleasurable experience as I have been preaching the way this game should be played, starting with having the utmost respect to the game and everyone involved. I want them to be disciplined and understand that what we were teaching was beginning to produce results. Seeing them come together to learn to hit the ball to the opposite field and cut the ball over third reminds me of my earlier days.  It’s pretty cool to be part of something I saw back in the 70’s.  I have a simple philosophy: let me and the coaches handle the team details and have the players listen to us, play the game, and enjoy the experience.  In the five years leading up to this year, there have been many growing pains along the way. We lost many close games and we lost many games by slaughter too. There were teams that showed us respect and there were others that really could care less and kept piling on the runs. In both circumstances lessons were learned. I kept telling them to put it in the back of their minds, don’t dwell on it just never forget. I have seen a group of young kids stick together and become a team. It’s fun to watch now. They are coming into their own. We have been invited to play in Forest Park No Gloves National without being in a play-in game and then knocking out the past year’s champs. They have also won their division in Mt Prospect. Finally, they have gained the respect of their peers.  I am proud to play a part of what these kids have accomplished in their short time playing the greatest game in Chicagoland.  I am hoping to continue to bring the younger kids into this great game because I never want to see it die. I will keep preaching the right way to play this game. Always!!!

FAMILY

Without batting an eye, there are only two reasons why I am up here today. First, the Good Lord has given me the opportunity to use what I have learned to contribute and keep growing this great game and second my wife and kids have supported my in my efforts. With a job that demanded much of my time and with softball running a close second, I needed a special person who really understood my life’s goals. Then throw in being an Elected Official and  you can just imagine what that was like. You have to make time for the family or it doesn’t work. I thank God for bringing such a wonderful and understanding person into my life. My wife, Kathy, has been by my side in everything I have done and continue to do. My children, Scotty and Shauna, have also been able to see first hand how important a solid relationship really is. I have been blessed to be in a position to be able to contribute in helping preserve this great game that everyone can play. I have enjoyed every jammed finger minute of it. 

PLAYING, COACHINGAND SPONSORSHIPS: 75 CHAMPIONSHIPS

1980-87 – Candlelight Jewelers Coached and played with my friend Laury Rose owner of Candlelight

1985-2010 – Shooter Softball Sponsored and Coached and played – Mt Prospect and Brooks Park

1998 – 39ers and Rogues – Sponsorship in 2 leagues – Park Ridge and Niles Park District

2011 – GNights Sponsored and Coached – in Mt Prospect and to 4th place finish in Nationals Iowa

2012 – March Shooters Sponsored and Coached – Mt Prospect and Niles Park District

2013 – Monster Shooters Sponsored and Coached – Mt Prospect and Niles Park District

2014 – Shooters Softball Sponsored and coached – Mt Prospect and Niles Park District

OTHER SPONSORSHIPS:

Prime Time    Auto Mart      Splinters         March Manufacturing

1990-2015 – Mt Prospect Park District Sponsor

2012- Current – Hall of Fame Car Sponsor at the Hole-in-One Golf Outing

2012- current – Hall of Fame -Advertising Sponsor in their Dinner Book

ELECTED OFFICIAL:

2003- Present – President of the Niles Park Board of Commissioners

OCCUPATION:

1992- Present – President/General Manager River Oaks Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram

 

Join us October 29, 2022

26th Annual Hall of Fame Inductee Dinner, at the Drury Lane Oakbrook

 

Full details in the shop link below