Big Grassy remembers diamond king

Joey Payeur

By all accounts, Leland Indian’s life revolved around two things: looking after others and making the fastball diamond his second home.
From now on at the place he cherished and was in turn revered in himself, he will do exactly that in spirit.
A giant of a man in the way he lived his life, Indian’s presence will stand tall for as long as the ballpark on Big Grassy First Nation exists after the diamond was named in his honour this past Friday.
Leland Indian Ball Park was officially christened with the raising of the sign which bears his likeness in front of assembled family members and friends in advance of the second-annual Leland Indian Memorial Slo-Pitch Tournament.
“It’s really cool to see,” said a grateful Nancy Indian, whose father’s influence on her still resonates significantly today through both her passion for the game and her approach to life.
“Dad was very huge in both baseball and to this community,” she added.
“It was awesome for people to even consider naming the field after my dad.”
Since his untimely passing in November of 2013, it has been a long road travelled by Indian’s family and friends in dealing with the loss of such a loved and respected family member and friend.
But that road reached a good turn at the end of last Rainy River District Fastball League season, following the now-defunct Big Grassy Braves’ conclusion of a championship three-peat right there on their home turf.
Shortly after holding up Indian’s jersey in their team picture following their title victory over the Barwick Blue Knights, the idea to name the field after their fallen teammate took hold.
Former Braves player Tim Archie took the lead on constructing the 15-foot sign, with help from people both inside and outside the community.
“Tim was determined two weeks ago to get the sign done in time for the tournament,” praised Nancy Indian, whose first-place Big Grassy Lynx women’s team hope to bring a Rainy River District Women’s Fastball League crown to their newly-titled home this season.
“I was pretty choked up when the sign went up, knowing how many lives he touched and not only his family and friends,” she added.
“It’s going to be awesome to see his face every time we hit the field.”
As for the 11-team tournament itself, which included teams from Kenora and Fort Frances as well as Big Grassy, Big Island and others, it was almost a Hollywood ending.
The Tribe, made up of Indian’s family and friends using the name Indian himself invented for the group years ago, made it all the way to the final before losing 7-6 to the Warriors.
“Because Dad started the team, we wanted to keep the tradition of the name going,” explained Nancy Indian.
Kayla Windigo of the Warriors was named female MVP of the tourney, while teammate Travis Tom took the same honour for the men—a repeat for both players from the awards they won when the Warriors captured a tournament in Keewatin earlier this year.
“It was so hot and so humid out there Saturday,” noted Nancy Indian.
“But we had the dunk tank down there at the field and Zig’s Place (the local store in Big Grassy) donated water so the teams wouldn’t get dehydrated,” she added.
“It only rained in the morning on Sunday, and then it was great the rest of the day.
“I think the tournament went really well. The games all started on time, all the teams showed up and everyone said they had a lot of fun.”