This past Thursday was a special night down at the ball diamond in Snug Cove: it was Toilet Bowl night, so called because the Bowen Island Men’s Fastpitch League’s two worst teams were going head to head. Last year’s league champions, the Cruisers, played the Twins for a case of beer and a trophy.
Struggling teams, of course, have been known to make a comeback during the final tournament of the season, and members of both teams say they will come out in force the weekend of August 7.
Julien Stevenson, coach for the Twins, says his team suffers because of the age of its players.
“All our players are in their 40s. They all have kids, it’s summer time and it’s super busy,” he says. “If we have all our players out, we could beat anyone but out of 17 players it can be tough to get nine to show up.”
Jim Gibson, manager of the Cruisers, says he too struggles to get his best players out at games, but for a different reason.
“I’d say we’re in a development year,” he says, jokingly. “We’ve got these great young players who are really dedicated to the league and commute from town. We even have one, Joe Wainsborough, who comes from Victoria. He doesn’t always make it but they will all be there for the finals.”
Gibson adds that in his nine years with the fastpitch league, the 2015 season has been one of the best in terms of the level of play.
“I’d say we’re having a resurgence,” says Gibson. “There are a lot of fastpitch leagues losing membership but here, even when kids move off-island and get jobs in the city, they want to come back and play. They grow up watching their dads play in the league, and then they play alongside them. Or sometimes against them.”
Derek Sinke, who plays for the Brewers, is just one of those young players. He rose the ranks from Bowen’s t-ball league all the way to a draft camp for the major leagues after a stint at Taft College in California. He says that the day he was set to sign a contract, he blew his arm out. Now he’s back on Bowen, playing against his dad, Rick, who plays for the Firemen.
The Brewers were re-formed last year out of the former Celtics and, last year, were the worst team in the league. This year, they’re one of the best.
“A lot of us work on-island and we just really enjoy playing together, so we’ve been in the habit of getting together after work to practise,” says Sinke.
Molly Montgomery, one of this year’s scorekeepers, agrees with Jim Gibson about the level of play this season, and she attributes the quality of the game to the dynamic described by Sinke.
“Each team has its own dynamic and a lot of the guys have been playing together for years,” she says. “When you’ve got a team that really gels, they play really well. And as the season has gone on we’ve seen the level of play get better and better, with a lot of games going in to extra innings.”
Montgomery, too, spent her childhood watching the fastpitch games. Her family used to sponsor the Tigers (who have been re-named the Shakers) and her summers were spent watching her brothers play.
“They still play for the Shakers, although Noah is out because he broke his fingers. Hamish is back from New York and has rejoined the team,” she says. “It really is the intergenerational aspect of this league that makes it so special. There’s nothing else like it. And it’s nice to see more people coming out to the games again. When I was a kid, the stands were always packed. I’d say there was a 10-year lull but now… we’re seeing more and more people coming out to watch.”
Bowen Island Men’s
Fastpitch League Teams:
The Brewers: Formerly known as the Celtics, have come back from the bottom of league standings last year to the top this year.
The Cruisers: Named in honour of the league’s senior player, Eddie Weismiller, because of the 1983 film “Eddie and the Cruisers.”
The Firemen: Known for their colourful Hawaiian attire for Friday night games.
Diggers: “Back in the day they couldn’t win a single game,” says Molly Montgomery. “Since 2010 they’ve made a comeback.”
The Shakers: Currently in the middle of the pack, watch out for the league’s “Godfather” Glen McGregor on the mound at the upcoming tournament.
Don’t forget to come out to this year’s final tournament, the weekend of August 7. The concession will be hosted by the Diggers so support them by grabbing a burger and a drink.