They were broken.
Like soldiers in a triage unit, players for Sight & Sound had battle scars that hindered some from walking straight and other scars that even put one in hospital.
Their team was beat up, and they had no choice but to forfeit the championship game and thus give the Rainy River Royals the win this past Sunday afternoon, which is the first time the Royals have won their own tournament in its four-year existence.
“We’re running out of guys,” said Derek McKinnon of Sight & Sound after a dramatic 15-14 semi-final win over Big Island that advanced them into the championship game.
“No sense in making the injuries worse,” McKinnon added.
Well said, and considering their injuries, things would’ve gotten worse.
Gary Noga reaggravated a groin muscle injury that was originally sustained playing hockey a few years back. Then there was Kirk Woods that “jammed up his hip” and could barely walk—and Duane Carlson, who popped his shoulder on Saturday after making a throw—and “Beeker” Watson, who was in hospital after being “sucker-punched” the night before.
And when you include they were missing the presence of four all-stars (Harvey Flamand, Grant Swire, Ed Vold, and Paul Visser) it was hardly surprising the train car that is Sight & Sound broke off from the tracks in “Railroad Town.”
And Donnie Gall, who organized the tournament and is a long-time player for Rainy River, was understanding of the decision.
“You don’t want to get them guys anymore hurt. It’s unfortunate that they can’t play, because the fans came to see some baseball,” said Gall. “We wanted to play, let’s not get that wrong, but we understand what they’re going through.”
Of course Rainy River wanted to play.
They had lost to Sight & Sound a few weeks ago in the Rainy River District Fastball League by a score of 8-5, which gave Sight & Sound their third-straight title in the league, and the Royals were looking to end the fastball season with a good note after having gone undefeated in league play.
“I wanted to get out their and beat them and get a little revenge to,” said Rainy River starting pitcher, Murray Armstrong.
Both teams had gone undefeated in the three games that led up to the final, but if the game had went on “they would’ve bombed us,” McKinnon predicted.
One player that wanted to play the game more than probably anyone else was Gall, who might very well have dawned his Rainy River uniform for the last time.
Because of his job with CN Rail, the 35-year-old may be moving to Sioux Lookout, and after being part of the league for 25 years (all of those years with Rainy River) Gall will certainly miss the league and playing for the Royals if he does in fact leave.
“I don’t want to leave,” says Gall.
Rainy River were awarded $1,100 for the win, while Sight & Sound took home a cheque for $600. And in place of a championship baseball game was a good ol’ homerun derby, which drew a number of competitors and put pressure on some of the hitters.
“People are going to expect these monster crushes, and all I’m going to get are ‘Pop Tarts,’” said Carlson of Sight & Sound, who was the biggest of the hitters entered—he went 1-for-5.
A hitter was allowed only five swings and after all had taken their cuts Jeff Miash, Leland Indian and Shaun Comegan, were tied with a 3-for-5 line.
A hit-off ensued with each getting only three swings and Miash and Indian both went 2-for-3, but Comegan went 1-for-3 and got knocked out.
The two would get only two swings in the next round and–of course—both went 1-for-2, which now called for a one-swing at-bat.
Miash, who suited up for Sight & Sound, stepped up first and cracked the ball to centrefield, but came 10-feet short of reaching the fence and then stepped up Leland.
“If I don’t hit this one do you just want to split the money?” Leland asked Miash, who responded with a nod.
But the $80 pot ($5 per hitter entered) didn’t need to be split, as Leland crushed the ball over the right field fence for the win.
“Whenever there’s a homerun contest, I like going into them. They’re a lot of fun,” said Indian, who played for Rainy River in the tournament.
They were broken.