Now that was slo-pitch

Maybe it’s just me but there isn’t the same heated competition (read rivalry) among local slo-pitch teams as there was, say, a dozen years ago.
The sad lack of tournaments here on summer weekends nowadays certainly isn’t helping the current malaise on the diamonds–even though there’s a lot more teams hitting the field than back then.
Way back then, when Arnie McLeod spotted me–the new sports guy in town–walking the streets and asked if I was interested in playing slo-pitch for a ragtag bunch of “leftovers” from the hospital team, games against Doug White’s crew (or the old North Air Benchwarmers led by Paul Bock or T.W. Judson sporting the likes of John Pierce, Mike Freeman, and Doug McBride) got everybody’s adrenalin flowing.
And what team’s collective blood didn’t boil when the Worms, piloted by “Toolie” Kawulia, and featuring NHL’er Mike Allison, Gord Kitzul, Missy Kawulia, et al., did their silly little wiggle in the dirt after a victory.
Then there were the tournaments. That first game Friday night, then a couple in the sweltering heat of Saturday, followed by a social at the arena auditorium. If you were lucky, you made it to the playoffs Sunday–when all the marbles were on the line with every pitch.
There were some memorable ones. Like my first one in July, 1987 when yours truly was supposed to be out covering the Flamingo Classic ladies’ golf tournament at Kitchen Creek. Oh, I had good intentions. One more loss and we were out, which I didn’t expect to take too long considering our next game was at 8 a.m. on a very muggy Sunday at VanJura after a particularly late wild–and late–social the night before.
Basically, I figured we’d by toast by 9:30.
Well, lo and behold, we won that game. And then the next one, and the one after that. Then after we won a fourth game, which put us into the ‘B’ final or something against T.W. Judson, I was left hoping the ladies would someday forgive me (I’m not sure Dixie Badiuk has yet).
Alas, the day did not end well. Waiting for game time, someone had the bright idea to head over to the Harbourage for milk shakes to cool off and relax. Let’s see . . . 90-degree heat, brilliant sunshine, hangovers. Not a good combination.
I can still see Syd Moran doubling over and groaning between innings afterwards.
Well, we lost the game to T.W. on a crucial play in the final inning when Jim Logan was called out at home trying to score the tying run. I also can still recall his reaction, and wonder if he’s ever forgiven umpire Bill Neurinski to this day.
A few years later, the “Coolers” (as the old “Leftovers” were now known as) had to face the Beakers (remember them?) in an opening-round match on a Saturday morning at the arena field (which has since gone the way of the dodo to make room for the second rink).
If memory serves correct, their first batter jacked one into the tennis courts, prompting us to let out a “It’s-going-to-be-one-of-those-games” sigh. But, as it turned out, Jim Logan was masterful on the mound and shut them down the rest of the way–en route to a 4-1 victory.
Then there was the time I snared a wicked line drive out in centre off the bat of Mike Allison in another tournament that preserved a narrow victory over the hated Worms. It’s definitely among a treasured highlight.
Our team, despite all the changes over the years, did enjoy some success. We won the Bell tournament (for losers) that fall of ’87, and were the runners-up of the ‘A’ final in another tourney a few years later. Afterwards, we all ended up at the old Bridgeman’s in the Falls, where Andrew Dillon polished off a Lalapalooza–unaided–in celebration.
Alas, we’ve all gone our separate ways now–Irene and Wayne Henry, Brad and Corrine Webb, Gary Sliworsky, now of Emo, who used to drive in each Thursday night from north of Rainy River, and Guy Donaldson, now of Robin’s Donuts fame.
Then there was Dave Bourgeault. Clearly in his twilight years as a player, he still made a spectacular running grab out in right field one evening that deserves to be enshrined as one of the greatest catches in the history of Fort Frances slo-pitch by an old guy.
Yes, those were the days, whether it was suiting up for the Leftovers/Coolers, or the vaunted Times’ Time-Outs or Squashers (I kept gettting traded).
I don’t expect the phone to be ringing off the hook this Monday when registration for another adult slo-pitch season gets underway at the Sportsplex. After all, what team is in the market for an over-the-hill wannabe who has a hard time down bending down to vacuum up a grounder, or hitting the ball out of the infield?
Then again, maybe there’s still hope yet. After all, there’s always Bourge for inspiration!
And maybe, just maybe, us oldtimers can even renew a few of those old rivalries some day.

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