Tales from the Doug-Out: May 26th, 2020
Remember the movie Back to the Future with Michael J Fox . Michael, who by the way was born in Edmonton and just recently gave a shout out to the health care workers on a video posted to the AHS Facebook page. Another week is here and will still don’t have any minor sport but we are getting closer every day, I hope! So into the time machine we go to the spring of 1987.
In 1987 the Blue Jays franchise was in its 11th season of Major League Baseball. The Blue Jays finished second in the American League East. They had been in first place by 3 and a half games over the Detroit Tigers with a week left to play and could have been in the World Series. But they dropped the ball and lost the next seven games in a row and lost the division by two games and missed the final. A few year later they won back to back World Series in 1992 and 1993. Time to do it again, don’t you think… But when will the season start?
Minor ball was growing wild in all of Canada. Especially in towns like Elk Point. We couldn’t keep up with finding enough ball diamonds for the growing population from the recent oil boom of the early 80’s. The recreation grounds west of Elk Point had just recently been completed and this helped out taking a load off, but even still, all the ball diamonds at the Elementary School and F. G. Miller were used every night. Every level of boys and girls baseball and softball had at least one, two or even as many as three teams at some levels. This would be my first experience coaching a ball team. Our son Jordan was five and they needed a coach for his T-Ball team. My wife Donna volunteered myself. I had played Little League growing up in Southern Ontario so I agreed. My home town of Ancaster Ontario is known for hosting the T-Ball World series. Last year they hosted the 51st World T-Ball Tournament. Some say the game of T-Ball was actually invented by some of the returning World War Two veterans from Ancaster.
Practice was two days a week, one hour long and I believe it would have been from 4 to 5pm, so the out of town kids wouldn’t have to come back to town. Hitting off a tee is not as difficult as some of the other skills. The biggest test is trying to figure out which way a kid naturally swings the bat. Then getting him or her to actually keep their eye on the ball to do it. Teaching kids at that age how to throw and catch the ball. Now that can be quite the challenge. Patience and practice is required. Keeping 15 kids occupied while teaching a skill to one or two of them is another real test. Unless you have enough help to split into groups you will find them rolling around in the grass picking dandelions for sure. Somehow we managed. Seems to me we must have split into teams for practice so everyone had a turn to hit and play in the field but we never played any out of town teams until the year end tournament.
The year end tournament was hosted by Bonnyville, at the Peter Kushnir Ball Park. I remember this really well. We won our first gam . Had some lunch and got ready to play again. Right in the middle of the second game I was stung by a bee and had to leave the ball park. I headed over to the hospital for a shot in the butt and a lecture from the nurse for not carrying my bee sting kit. My wife Donna took over coaching with the help of big Ray Danyluk. His daughter Robin was on the team. When I returned they had won the game and we were headed to the A final. I was getting players ready in the dug out with helmets and lining them up and helping them to bat. I don’t remember the team we played but I do remember how excited Ray was coaching third base. He was jumping up and down waving his arms for the players to run faster. Pushing them past third to home. It was a very close game coming right down to the final at bat and we scored the winning run. Everyone went nuts. Well at least the parents did. Not sure the kids even care whether they win or lost at that level as long as there’s some hot dogs or ice cream after. Today everyone at that level gets a trophy or a medal for participating. But not back in 1987 . One team would get the trophy for winning and the runners up would get a pat on the back. This was our first championship. But not the last. Two years later in 1989 my wife Donna and Ron Johnson coached the Elk Point T-Ball team that my daughter Jena was on and won the Lakeland League championship bringing home the trophy to Elk Point for a second time.
K.A. Campbell quote of the week. ‘ It isn’t hard to be good from time to time in sports. What is tough is being good every day.’ -Willie Mays