Sponsor Recognition - Ron Irwin and B&I Sports

Softball has flourished in various forms in Pierce County throughout many decades, with area teams often winning regional titles and competing at the national level. Those teams wouldn't have enjoyed the success they did had there not been good sponsorship, and one of the top sponsors was Ron Irwin and B& I Sports.

In the beginning, Irwin's sponsorship involvement came in Little League, Youth Football, Youth Soccer, and bowling. "I can remember year after year kids from all over the county asking me to help them go to nationals for every sport imaginable or help them buy uniforms," Irwin said.

It was in the 1970s that Irwin turned his attention to sponsoring softball teams ranging from fastpitch to modified fastpitch to slowpitch. It started when Manke Lumber decided to quit its sponsorship of the only AA fastpitch team in the county. Irwin, who had played slowpitch softball for a decade and understood the importance of the fastpitch game in the area, in and put the B&I name to the Northwest League squad.

"We started importing pitchers from New Zealand shortly after that in an attempt to beat our rivals to the north, ...Pay 'n Pak," Irwin said. "The most New Zealanders we brought over in one year was three pitchers, two wives and two children. We gave them cars, a house to live in, jobs and paid expenses for them."

Several years later, the idea of sponsoring a top-notch modified fastpitch team came in conversations with several of the game's enthusiasts. "I pushed the idea and we put together one of the greatest modified teams in the entire country," Irwin said.

Shortly after the modified team was off and running, Irwin turned his attention to another form of the sport - slowpitch. He was approached by Kathy Hemion to sponsor a team a team at the AA level, and after seeing two women hit a controlled flight ball out of Peck Field, he was hooked. "I had played on those same fields for 10 years and I never hit a real ball out of there," Irwin said. "I couldn't pass up an opportunity to sponsor the best women's team this state has ever seen and possibly ever will see, and I never regretted it."

Irwin sponsored fastpitch, modified and women's slowpitch for almost 20 years and those teams consistently made national tournament appearances. His reason for spending those many thousands of dollars wasn't for advertising. "Sponsoring ball teams is the worst way to spend your advertising dollar," Irwin said. "You have to have another reason for doing it. I would like to think it was for the love of the game."

And the game in Pierce County has benefited greatly from his involvement.

1983 B&I SPORTS - REGIONAL TOURNAMENT


Front row l. to r.: Norm Burnside, Glen Davis, Roger Miller, Ron Vandegrift, Bob Howard, Lloyd Glasoe, Mike Maryinski, and Tom Kenyon.
Back row l. to r.: Jim Tompkins, Ken Bauer, Steve Williams, Dan Oliver, Rick Nation, Jim Kenyon, and Tom Thomas.



1985-87 B&I SPORTS MODIFIED FASTPITCH TEAM


Front row l. to r.: Dan Oliver, Mike Brooks, Dave Miyake, Roger Scott, Ron Vandegrift, Jack Petronovich, Joe Patnode, Ron Staples, and Batboy.
Back row l. to r.: Ken Bender, Mike Weese, Rick Elkin, Mike Garrett, Mike Larson, Ernie McKenzie, Ken Stancato, and Batboy.



1986 B&I SPORTS - NATIONAL MODIFIED CHAMPIONSHIP IN SPOKANE


Front row l. to r.: Norm Burnside, Glen Davis, Roger Miller, Ron Vandegrift, Bob Howard, Lloyd Glasoe, Mike Maryinski, and Tom Kenyon.
Back row l. to r.: Jim Tompkins, Ken Bauer, Steve Williams, Dan Oliver, Rick Nation, Jim Kenyon, and Tom Thomas.