BILLINGS — Greg Steffanich doesn't remember where he was when he got the call that he would be inducted into the Billings American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame.
All he knows is one thing.
"I didn't cry or anything," Steffanich said with a hearty laugh. "I was pleased about it, and I go, 'Yeah, good.'"
But tears might have been an understandable reaction, as Steffanich is one of six new members who will be enshrined on Saturday. Steffanich, along with Brandon Worth, Chris Shultis, Adam Hust, Chris Collins and Warren Pospisil will all be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center. The Dave McNally Friend of American Legion Baseball award will go to Dan Barz and his wife, the late Diane Barz.
For Steffanich, the induction has been a cause for reflection on what's been a lifetime of baseball that has spanned almost 40 years since he was a player on the Billings Royals.
"I think it's good to be honored and things like that, but as you go through life, things have different meanings to you than when you were younger," Steffanich said. "Obviously, when I was younger I was a lot more selfish because I was pursuing the dream, which was baseball. I was fortunate to play with some really good dudes. The competition we played was really good.
"Obviously, I had a lot of help. I was fortunate to have some good coaches. Joe Pirtz was one of them. He taught me how to pitch and how to do everything. I learned more from that guy than anything."
Steffanich has been involved with Legion baseball players since he was a player from 1978-1981. In 1980, as a senior at Billings Senior, Steffanich was a member of the Billings Royals team which went on to be the state champions that year.
While not everyone gets the opportunity to win a state championship, Steffanich said surprisingly that that is not the memory that stands out the most.
"I have more memories about winning the Firecracker Tournament in Rapid City (South Dakota) than I do of the state tournament here in Billings," Steffanich said.
He said competing against high-profile teams from New York while hanging out with his friends in the summer highlighted the South Dakota tournament specifically, but Steffanich said spending time with friends and teammates was the biggest positive from the entire Legion experience.
"Just dudes being dudes and that was fun," Steffanich said. "It was a great opportunity for me."
From there, Steffanich went to the College of Southern Idaho, a Division-I junior college, to play college baseball, playing one more year for the Royals in 1981 as well. After two years at CSI, he was drafted in the 18th round by the San Diego Padres and signed with them. He spent two years in the Padres' minor league system before he was released due to shoulder tendinitis and losing some velocity.
"When you look back at it, and the opportunity, you really have to have a love and desire to do that, because for one, it doesn't pay well," Steffanich said about the minors. "We were getting $600 a month and $11 a day for meal money and that's when you're home. But, the beauty of baseball is if you love it there's a lot of different levels you can play at. But it's helped me a lot just as far as keeping after it and staying positive."
Steffanich, a pitcher, said he played about 14 innings his freshman year before seeing an increase in playing time his second year at CSI. Steffanich said he chose to sign for the majors over full offers from UNLV, Arkansas, and Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.
After his two years in the pros, Steffanich returned to Billings to begin coaching Legion baseball. He spent three years as the pitching coach for the Royals. Later, he was named head coach and spent five seasons as the Royals' skipper. They were runners-up for three seasons.
Aside from coaching, Steffanich is an owner of the The Hitters Club, along with Art LaGaly, which was established in 1998. There, he is an instructor for baseball and softball players for pitching and hitting. He also started the Magic City Havoc, which was a club softball team, while also spending time as an assistant coach at Billings Skyview.
"I've been involved with baseball ever since I quit playing," Steffanich said. "The playing part of it doesn't mean as much to me as the chance I have now to be involved with kids and help them. Teach them how to pitch or teach them about baseball. I think I'm more happy and proud of those things."
Steffanich is also passionate about seeing Billings build another baseball field, a project he said he has been working on to see achieved.
"If you're going to create more opportunities for kids to play baseball and softball, we need another field," Steffanich said.
Steffanich also works at Tryan's Auction Center with his girlfriend, Tina Tryan. Tina and her parents, along with two of his three daughters, Sam and Molly, LaGaly, ex-Royal and San Francisco Giant Randy Walter, Steffanich's mother and Mark Goldy will all attend Saturday's dinner to celebrate with him. His oldest daughter, Kate, currently lives in Costa Rica.
"You're getting respect in your field. It's a lot of different things," Steffanich said. "My work as a whole, as far as what I've done with baseball, this just validates that I need to keep doing what I do. Because I must be OK at it.
"It's the memories of that stuff and what you did back then that have helped me as far as what I do now and my approach. I was working to be something and I still am."