Friend Encounters is a weekly series featuring my friends who have met celebrities.
In the middle of a long Chicago winter, my thoughts turn to softball. When I think softball, Don Martukovich is one of the many names coming to mind.
Residing in Ohio, I first came across Don because of my connection to the National Pro Fastpitch Chicago Bandits. Don is somewhat of a Facebook legend because of his photography. While the majority of his pictures were of the NPF Akron Racers, he also posted plenty of pictures of other NPF and collegiate teams.
Unfortunately, the Racers folded a few years back, but Ohio got another team when the Cleveland Comets joined the NPF. The Comets play in several Ohio cities, making it tougher for Don to see as many games, but he still is a regular presence at their games.
Don is a great guy. He is always generous with his pictures, giving them to the players and allowing me to use some fr my various stories. He also has helped identify players for me.
O course, Don has many pictures with softball players over the years. I chose this picture with pitcher Angel Bunner because she has a connection to both of us.
Angel was a star pitcher at Auburn, one of Don's favorite teams, prior to joining the NPF. She eventually joined the Chicago Bandits midway through the 2016 season. She was the winning pitcher, pitching in the first six innings of game 3 of the championship series versus the USSSA Pride. She will always be loved in Bandit Nation because of that.
The 2020 NPF season will see a lot of changes in the schedule format. No matter the teams and schedules, Don will remain a passionate fan, as will I. I even hope to trek out to Ohio for some games.
Check out ChicagoBandits.com, ProFastpitch.com and ClevelandComets.us for more info on the NPF. If you come out to a game, look out for Don in Ohio and me in Rosemont.
Angel Bunner and Don Martukovich in OH-August 2018.