Princeton natives Barb Northway and Ed Kingsley will be inducted into the Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame this coming Nov. 3 at the Rivers Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud.
This hall of fame biennially recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the sport of softball, and has various categories to be inducted under. For Northway, 53, it is for her contributions to the state’s softball program as an administrator. In the case of Kingsley (who is being honored posthumously) it is as a volunteer, organizer and promoter. The category, umpire, could also have been added.
Kingsley’s wife Jeannie Kingsley says Eddie deserves the induction “very much.” She and Eddie moved from Aitkin to Princeton in 1978, and Eddie began playing softball right away, she said. A few years later Kingsley started umpiring softball games and continued umpiring and playing softball to near the time of his death from cancer on June 9, 2008.
Eddie, with Jeannie at his side, also ran the Princeton softball league program for about 25 years, and Jeannie continues that work today. Eddie also coached a women’s team in Princeton and one in Cambridge.
The Kingsley couple took over running the softball league association from Brad and Lisa Ekstrom and at that time there were only two softball fields at Mark Park. Jeannie said it was Eddie’s big goal to get the third field built, and he achieved that more than a decade ago.
Eddie worked with the Princeton Jaycees on a lot of softball field improvements at Mark Park, including work on the concession stand that sits next to the ball fields, and the Mark Park picnic shelter. The Kingsley couple’s son Tim and daughter Karla have continued to carry on Eddie’s tradition of involvement in softball.
The Kingsleys’ contributions to the Princeton softball program are recognized on a metal plaque placed on the outside of the backstop of the center ball field at Mark Park.
“He loved softball, he really did,” Jeannie said. “He was an outdoors guy all around.”
Jeannie added that she likes that Northway is being inducted into the hall of fame the same time as Eddie, explaining that Eddie had coached her as a softball player.
Northway, commenting about Eddie, said the job of league director that Eddie had is not easy, because the director has to deal with so many players. “It spoke to his ability to satisfy the masses,” she said, and echoed Jeannie’s sentiment about Eddie’s passion for softball.
“A lot of people stay in a sports position because they get paid, but I’m sure he did it for the love of it,” Northway said.
Connie Wangen of Princeton, who graduated from Princeton High School with Northway in 1977 and played on the same softball team as Northway for many years, describes Northway as having been an “awesome pitcher” in slow pitch softball.
The two were softball players from about 1979 into the 1990s. Many of the team members are such close friends that they frequently reunite each year, often picking an activity as their focus. Among those has been golf and kayaking.
Wangen said last week that the two were in high school when softball hadn’t yet become a sport there, but they and many other women made up for that by playing softball in Princeton’s summer leagues for about a decade or more.
The team Northway and Wangen were on had two sponsors over its time – Princeton Implement for most of the earliest years, and then Olson Construction. Wangen’s father, the late Chester Erickson, owned Princeton Implement and it was under that sponsorship, Wangen says, that the team went to state in 1983, in women’s class C softball and placed third.
Northway, after high school, earned an undergraduate degree in recreation and business from St. Cloud State University in 1981. She had already started working in 1980 for the Minnesota Recreation Park Association and left that job in 1982 to begin working for the Minnesota Sports Federation, of which she was the director 1982-2004. During most of that time she ran the adult and junior Olympic softball program that was affiliated with the Amateur Softball Association of America.
Northway received the Breaking Barriers Award in 1998, during the Minnesota National Girls and Women in Sports Day celebration at the state capitol. The award recognizes persons and organizations who have broken barriers to provide athletic opportunities for girls and women.
Northway was involved in community education in Rockford during 2004-11, becoming the director. She is now deputy director of parks and recreation in the city of Plymouth.
Northway said the popularity of softball, both in Princeton and nationwide in the past four decades, peaked in both geographical areas in the mid-1980s into the ‘90s.
And why did it peak and then decline?
The baby boomers, those born 1946-64, took up softball so passionately in town leagues probably because they had little or no softball as a high school sport, Northway said.
Addressing her being inducted into the Minnesota Softball Hall of Fame, Northway said: “I’m honored. I truly believe I have enjoyed my job of putting a lot of effort into providing a service for a good program.”