Passing of Eric Kohlhase
Softball New Zealand sadly announces the passing of Eric Kohlhase; a great man and softball icon.
Eric Kohlhase was a legend in softball and his exploits have enhanced the game well beyond his Marist Club and Auckland softball. Often controversial, no game was dull when he was around; with his powerful throw, speedy running and his ability to hit any pitch, usually with great power and often with game-winning effect.
There was one particularly outstanding season. In 1968 he seemed impossible to get out and was an obvious choice for the team to play the World Series in Oklahoma. When he seemed set to repeat that selection in 1972, there was a media controversy over his non-selection for South Africa.
For so many years his name was synonymous with softball in the Auckland Media.
Always a one-dub man, he inspired Marist to its first ever Auckland title and played for Auckland for 12 seasons. After taking the clubs colts for ten years, his dedicated coacing of junior players led to the clubs rise to the top of the echelon of the game in the search for the national title. Many players have risen to play for New Zealand and also have gone on to coach at national level.
Off the field he was always available on the club committee and as a junior coach, umpire or worker. This was repeated every winter with the Marist rugby club where he also inspired many All Blacks. He was the driving force in the club lifting to the top levels of the game in New Zealand and his fire sparked Auckland softball to new levels to match Marists brilliance.
As Marist rose in the ranks of clubs, Eric set off in a new direction, planning and building a special diamond at Liston Park, with an artificial infield, grandstand seating and wrap-around fences; something which could exist along with the high demands of rugby.
When the softball and rugby halves of the club separated he took the infield to Simson Reserve where he started all over again. Up went the high fences and the concrete bleachers and Marist hardly paused in its development. The artificial infield has lasted almost 30 years, justifying his gamble, which was criticised at the time.
Eric coached so many club sides and Auckland teams. When others failed to put up their hands to coach the Auckland Men's side, Eric stepped in and took the team to the national title in 2001-02 after coaching the team to 3rd and 2nd in the previous two seasons. That year he was named as Sport Auckland's Coach of the Year for winning three titles in one season.
At St Peters College he was a driving force in the schools year of National Softball title successes, as they did with rugby under his guidance. Sport Auckland has also awarded his a service to softball award.
Always ready to assist his club or the Association, whether it was in umpiring coaching, administration or preparing the grounds, Eric has been valued for the past 40 years.
In 2004 he was also assistant coach to Mike Forsyth with the first Samoan side to play in the World Series where the team ended up fourth.
So many young players have benefitted from his non-stop enthusiasm and knowledge. He was an elected member on the ASA Board for many years and always assisted at national tournaments putting up fences etc, and was always available to coach junior teams or umpire.
His son Eddie is the current NZ Men's Coach and was an inspirational player while his son Chris also represented NZ. His proteges, such as Dean Rice and Roman Gabriel have also coached at national level.
Softball New Zealand (SNZ) acknowledges all of Eric's work and commitment for the game of softball and his talents, enthusiasm and hard-work for the betterment of the game. In 2010 Eric was awarded the SNZ Distinguished Services Award.
Our sincere condolences go out to Ellen and the family, and the softball community will mourn and remember a great ambassador and servant to the game. He will be sadly missed.