At the young ages of 9 and 10, the Lions/Telulah Little League Softball All-Stars of 1997 showed such promise that when the team came up short in the district championship game, the girls, their parents and coaches found themselves disappointed. They were optimistic about the future, though, and decided to work toward the goal of becoming Wisconsin State Champions.
Parent Brian Burmeister had the vision that led the girls to start playing in some local weekend tournaments. Coached by Bob Nissen, Bob Pagel and John Hauser, the girls played their first tourney in Pulaski. The team didn’t fair too well, but they gained valuable experience. The following year, this same team played in several tournaments at the 12U level. This group of 11 year olds played six tournaments that summer, capping it off with a first place in Shawano.
The summer of 1999 would change everything, the girls would complete in several tournaments in May and June, winning tournaments in Rochester, Minnesota, Green Bay and Beaver Dam, as well as playing in a 14U tournament in Pulaski, even though they were just 12 year olds. The end of June started the Little League tournament season; Tom Marlbough would be the new coach of these young ladies and lead them on a journey of a lifetime. Tom was assisted by Bob Nissen and Pam Mitchler.
As the girls got ready for the tournament games, parent Mark Rebman suggested they needed a good luck charm. Mark shared the story of how his son’s baseball team members each took a small branch off a tree at Lions Park when they went to the State Championship so they always had a part of their home park with them. Then, Coach Nissen told the girls that whenever the game was close and he was getting nervous, he would pick up two rocks and rub them together for good luck while he was coaching third base. Jaycee Park, where the girls practiced, was known for having small rocks all over the infield, so each girl started picking up two “lucky” rocks to carry in their bat bags to every tournament for good luck. There also was a big granite decorative rock sitting just beyond the left field fence at Jaycee Park. Everyday, at the beginning and the end of every practice, each girl would run out and touch the rock for good luck. The team even had a mascot, a smaller Rock, about the size of a football, that was brought to all the games.
The girls practiced for hours everyday at Jaycee Park and were well prepared. They rolled through the Little League District Tournament, beating the same Kiwanis team that had defeated them two years earlier. And the team went on to win the State Championship in Black River Falls, the Divisional Championship in Boone Iowa, and the Regional Championship in Joplin, Missouri, advancing to the Little League World Series in Portland, Oregon. The girls from South Appleton took take third place in the 1999 World Series. Throughout the journey, the good luck rock went with them, even sitting in the dugout for every game of the World Series.
The year 2000 brought change, this group of players and their parents decided that if they were going to excel in softball, they would need to start their own traveling team and play top-level competition, wherever that was. Detaching themselves from Little League meant they would need a new name. Tom Marlborough thought about the good luck charm, and the girls soon became known as ….The Rockers !!!
In 2001, the Rockers had added a second team when Gary Jahnke and Jim Horak put a team together that started playing as Rockers, as well. Since then, more than 150 girls have played for the Rockers. The South Appleton Rockers Softball Association (SARSA, coined by Parent Steve Brandmeyer) now sponsors teams from the 10U to 18U levels, competing in more than 40 tournaments throughout the Midwest each summer.