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Softball standout earns honor

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For Billy Wallace, softball is a way of life. One of the most recent inductees to the United States Specialty Sports Association of Washington Hall of Fame, the former Snoqualmie resident has excelled at the sport, often flying across the country with his team to enter another of a seemingly endless series of tournaments.

His mother, Colleen Johnson of Snoqualmie, calls Wallace's devotion to softball "kind of an obsession."

Wallace bats left- and right-handed with equal power, runs so fast that he has hit more doubles than singles and has performed acrobatic feats in the outfield that would put Cirque du Soleil to shame. In just five years with coach Mickey Merriam, Wallace hit 415 home runs and played in 75 tournaments against the best softball teams in the nation. In 29 of those tournaments he was selected as one of the top 10 players. He was voted to the Washington All-Star team six years in a row, and he was recognized by fellow players as the best all-around athlete to play the sport.

Wallace, who now lives in Lake Stevens with his wife, Kris, and two children, doesn't play on your average company softball team with a keg at every base; this is as close to professional baseball as it gets.

Skinny and asthmatic as a child, Wallace grew up devoted to playing Little League pickup games in Georgia and high-school baseball. He even tried out for a few major-league teams, but was told he wasn't durable enough to play.

The now 6-foot-4 Wallace gained weight and discovered slow-pitch softball, where he was quickly scouted to play with and against the best teams in the United States.

Dedicating two decades to weekend tournaments and after-work practices could be considered obsessive, but Johnson said, "If anybody ever loved slow pitch, my kid loved slow-pitch softball."

Tournaments often include red-eye flights, eight games a day and returning to work on Monday without any sleep.

Wallace doesn't regret any of it. "Short of having a major-league career, it's the best thing," he said with his soft Georgian accent of his time spent on the softball field.

For Wallace, the honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame is more than receiving a title and what he refers to as a "big herkin ring." The year-long selection process that began with peer nominations recognized and validated Wallace's talent and commitment to playing slow-pitch softball.

"It was one of those nights where you don't want to put your head down at the end. You just don't want it to be over," he said of the induction ceremony, which was held late last year in SeaTac.

Merriam, also a member of the Hall of Fame, said, "Billy is deserving, and having him in here is what it means to be in the Hall of Fame."

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