In the year In the summer of 1996, 20-year-old Jeff Yackle of Downers Grove was riding a motorcycle in Frankfort with his future wife, Julianne.
He collided with a pickup truck and suffered permanent nerve damage to his left leg. He said he has a foot drop problem and the accident separated his hip from his body.
Julia was injured, but since she landed on top of Jeff after the impact, her injuries were not severe or long-lasting.
Active in sports at Donners Grove North and the College of DuPage, Jeff’s athletic days seemed to be over and his ankle disability forced him to wear an orthotic brace.
Yackley, now a 56-year-old Lemont resident, is a pitcher for the Lincolnway Special Recreation Association Hawks. The Hawks participated in the USA Wheelchair Softball World Series Thursday through Saturday on five fields in the parking lot of Ozinga Field in Crestwood. The concrete outside the stadium served the athletes well as the teams could not move on grass or turf.
Yackley is a member of Team USA, coached by Keith Wallace of Frankfort and Sue Dineen of Oak Lawn.
At age 20, Yackley says he accepted his fate.
“I wasn’t bitter, and I was young enough to be active even though I couldn’t do the same things I was at,” he said. “I had to use my right leg more than I used to.
“No bitterness. The Lord has a strange way of changing plans and details, and you have to go with things.”
He said that he regretted how things turned out because he did not know that there are adaptive sports. Adaptive sports were not widely known back then and there was no internet to get the word out.
Yackley said he learned about it on a mission trip to Kenya seven years ago. His roommate was Wallace, who is a coach and executive director of the Lincolnway Special Recreation Association.
Wallace took one look at Yaklin’s brace and decided it was the perfect fit for wheelchair sports.
“I wish I had discovered these adaptive sports when I was in my 20s,” Yackley said. “Who knows what I can do? But I’m definitely blessed. I’ve been able to play some basketball and what a humbling sport it is. These players are a lot better than me. They’re faster and better. It’s been a while.”
Yackley is in his 23rd year at The Links at Carillon in Plainfield and has been the director of golf there since 2008. He is the captain of the Chicago Bears’ Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association wheelchair soccer team and was scheduled to participate in Saturday’s tournament. Sunday at Lake County College in Grayslake.
“I want to stay as long as I can and I want to do this until my body gives out,” he said. “I feel like I’m 30 and I love my team. The Lord has blessed me to be able to come out here and play in person.”
In the year The Hawks, who finished third in the 2021 World Series, opened the 17-team double-elimination tournament with a 15-0 win over the West Michigan Rollin Whitecaps and a 13-2 victory over the Deep South Hurricanes.
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Other members of the Wallace roster are Jake Williams, Devin Lockett, Will Smith, Paul Smith, Keith Cooper, Jimmy Jackson, Billy Smith, Dan Douglas, JR Boyer, Dino Ramirez, Alex Parra, Drew Ciccone, Jay Robinson, Justin Hillman, Juan Ortiz. . , Jorge Alfaro, Dan Palmer and Nikki Vansa.
The Nebraska Barons are the defending World Series champions and are the top seed this year. They won the first two games 31-5.
The team that came the furthest was the Japanese star team. They opened the series with a fifth-seeded win over the Houston Astros 15-1 and a 16-7 win over the fourth-seeded Columbus Pioneers.
After a 13-hour flight, the Japanese players spent some time in Chicago a few days before the tournament and planned to play the Windy City Thunderbolts on Thursday night.
Coach Yuta Saito said that this team is only together for one tournament and that the players will return to Japan and disperse to their respective teams.
“They really want to win this tournament,” Saito said. “The players want to gain experience of playing overseas. They will have the experience of playing such teams back home.
Jeff Vorva is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.