As far as diamonds go, this one is pretty rough-cut. But it’s still the most beautiful gem I’ve ever seen.
If you passed through the Cove this weekend, it would have been hard to miss. The Alex Ross Memorial ball diamond shines its very brightest over the annual three-day tournament, with a pop-up beer garden and bleachers jam-packed with fans of all ages. This place is a testament to the power of community; a culmination of three decades worth of volunteerism and dedication that has spawned generations of ballers and fans who know how to pull together. This tournament celebrates all of that in the best way possible, by bringing together fans, players, and administrators to have fun and say thanks.
To our League Commissioner, Glen McGregor: thanks for all that you do to keep this league up and running. Huge thanks also to George Bernard, Jan Leroy, Spencer and Casey Grundy, and Tom Woodward for their work and dedication on the League board, and to the excellent crew of scorekeepers who are at every single game to keep the stats coming: Casey and Spencer Grundy, Molly Montgomery, George Zawadski, George Bernard, and Katy Michener. Thanks to all the players who came out to umpire, and to the fans who came out to cheer during the regular season. And of course, no tournament would be complete without ballpark hotdogs and beers, so huge thanks to the whole Shakers concession crew, especially Paul MacGillivray and Milly Evans, for keeping us fed and refreshed all weekend. Special thanks to our tournament umpires, Colin Thompson and Frank Hall, and to Wayne Siemen for his highly professional play-by-play commentary. If you ventured anywhere near the Cove during a game, chances are you caught some of Wayne’s updates- we didn’t want anyone in a three-mile radius to miss out on the action.
And there was a lot of action. After another successful season of fast balls, close calls, and one-liners from the peanut gallery, the heroes of the Bowen Island Men’s Fast Pitch League were ready to sign off in a big way. Our 2016 League Championship trophy winners are the Diggers, coached to excellence by Tom Woodward. They had an outstanding season, with 14 wins and only 2 losses. The Firemen finished strong in second place with 12 wins, followed by the Twins in third (8 wins), Brewers in fourth (6 wins), Cruisers in fifth (5 wins), and the Shakers in sixth (3 wins). The difference between the top and bottom team standings is getting smaller and smaller every season, thanks to the terrific coaches and dedicated players who make Bowen’s ball league such a pleasure to watch all season.
Come tournament time, though, all of the regular-season standings go out the window and it’s anybody’s game… It’s all about the plus-minus, you know. The Diggers came out predictably strong on Friday night, with a high-scoring takedown of the Twins. Saturday morning saw a victory for the Cruisers over the Brewers, followed by the Shakers clinching a win over the Firemen. Next, the Diggers kept up their winning streak against the Brewers, the Cruisers endured a shake-down at the hands of the Shakers in the afternoon, and the Firemen secured a win over the Twins. The final game of Saturday’s round-robin play was yet another big W for the Diggers, putting them at an impressive +21 standing. Sunday morning ended the round-robin games, with the Twins and the Brewers taken out by the Shakers and the Firemen, respectively.
Moving into the semi-finals, it was a battle of the bats between the first-place Diggers and the fourth-place Cruisers, with the Diggers edging out the competition in a hard-hitting game. If you’re curious about what breaking the sound barrier is like, Aaron Johnstone’s bat connecting with Jamie Weismiller’s zinger of a fastball is a pretty good demonstration. Next up were the third-place Firemen looking to take out the second-place Shakers, and they did just that in an exciting comeback, thanks to a clutch three-shot home run by Malcolm McEachern just when it looked like they were about to be outdone by Steve Baskerville’s mighty arm.
Heading into the final game, the tensions were high and crowd was buzzing. The Firemen took an early lead, thanks to Phil Wood’s crafty pitching and the team’s high-calibre defence. The score held at 7-2 for the Firemen up until the sixth inning, when the Diggers fired up their bats to close the gap. The Firemen rallied back, and the seventh inning closed with a tied score of 13-13, pushing the game into overcharge with extra innings. The Firemen batted first, but to no avail; Adam Woodward’s pitching was on point, and the Diggers played a tight defence who couldn’t be rattled by even the most creative of beer-garden heckles. Relief pitcher Kurt Stuart pitched a gem, but Daniel Cowper sacrificed himself with a fly ball deep in left field, scoring base runner Michael Dawson to clinch the tournament trophy with a thrilling 14-13 victory. It was a well-played game between two excellent teams, and a well-earned win for the Diggers.
Following this heart-clutching finale was the annual awards ceremony. The League has many trophies, for many different accomplishments, but the two that stand out as representative of the community values this diamond was founded upon are the Scott Helenius Memorial Championship trophy, and the Greg Cope Memorial Sportsman of the Year award. In memoriam trophies are special, because these winners carry the mantle of those we’ve lost by honouring their values. This year’s Greg Cope Sportsman of the Year is Malcolm McEachern of the Firemen, a young man who is humble in victory and gracious in defeat, who makes his team better just by showing up. The Scott Helenius Memorial Championship trophy is, of course, awarded to the team who wins the tournament, but it means a little more than that. To win this tournament, you have to show up and play hard no matter what, and you have to stay united and play as a team. It takes heart to win this trophy, and the Diggers are a united front with a whole lot of heart. Congratulations, 2016 champions!
If you missed out on the excitement this past weekend, you can still catch a great game this Bowfest. The annual All-Star game will be played at noon, so grab a bleacher seat and watch the over-thirty All-Stars try to outfox the under-thirty All-Stars.
You’ll find us in Snug Cove, at our local diamond-in-the-rough.