In 2008, the Independent Softball Association celebrated their 25th year of providing softball players and enthusiasts nationwide with a fun and exciting form of organized softball.
From the association's unique "Base Burglar," who only pinch runs in the game, to stealing bases, walks that count as hits to your average, inning ending home runs and sacrifices that aren't really sacrifices. It's a game that actually makes the catcher part of the game and where the ball is always live. This new brand of softball caught on fire in a small town in Tennessee in 1984 and twenty five years later the small flame has grown into a national blaze.
In 1984 in Shelbyville, TN, the Independent Softball Association was founded by a man named Larry Nash. First introduced to the sport of softball in 1967, Nash was hooked from his first game. "I played from early March until late October each year, averaging over two-hundred games a year, I loved it!" said Nash. After years of playing, Nash decided that although he may have lost a step or two in the game, he still had much to offer the game of softball in the form of coaching and organizing teams. He managed a local team for a while and also became a director for one of Tennessee's existing softball organizations. Then after many years of enjoying the sport, Nash decided he had ideas to help make softball even more fun and enjoyable.
So as the saying goes, "if you want it done right, do it yourself" in 1984, Nash and a few softball buddies with a handful of loyal teams jumped headfirst in to the association business. "I got involved in a local tournament that the Shelbyville Jaycees hosted along with the local community. The tournament grew to be one of the biggest in the south and was known as the Southeast Regional Spring Shootout. We had teams from twenty-four different states attending and the whole community would get involved. The teams really looked forward to coming every year. So, in 1984 the ISA held their very first tournament the "ISA Southeast Regional Spring Shootout" which hosted sixty-four teams. "We had some frustrated teams and coaches when they showed up to find out we were playing the new ISA rules. But after they played the game and they experienced how much fun it was, they were all asking ‘how can I take this game to where I am from?' "I have always said the game sells itself, once a team plays it they are hooked," stated Nash.
From the first tournament with sixty-four teams and the associations first National in Conyers, GA that saw sixteen teams, the growth began to explode. Nash worked around the clock balancing an insurance agency, a life, a home and a growing softball association for ten years until 1994 when Nash's health came into play.
"It was hard, I was running the insurance agency, working my farm and traveling around the country growing ISA softball. It was very exciting, but I knew that my dream had out-grown me and it needed full time attention," said Nash.
That's when long time softball player, enthusiasts, sponsor and businessman Bill Ruth of Washington State stepped in. Ruth had come across the possible sale of the ISA and figured with his love of the sport and his knowledge of business; this could work and actually acquired the association amongst some other business dealings.
"ISA turned out to be the best part of the deal," laughed Ruth. Shortly after Ruth purchased ISA, the headquarters was moved to Winter Haven, Florida in 1997 and to Bartow, Florida in 2007.
Don Stratton took over as CEO in October of 2007 after being with ISA for over 20 years. Stratton has been instrumental in forming a working partnership with Senior Softball USA while continuing to grow the potential of ISA.