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Thursday , 21 October 2021

Diamonds in the Rough

Tales from Doug Out – June 9th, 2020

If this was a normal year, we would have to deal with the rain on this past weekend on the ball diamond. Instead of sitting inside my house looking out the window at it. Getting tarps over the mound, kitty litter, oil dry absorbent , dry shale, squeegee, rakes, shovels, pumps. Plus a huge supply of dry balls and towels to dry them. The game must go on. Sometimes of course it is just to wet, as was likely the case this past weekend and the games would be postponed until a later date. But usually we would do the best we could to play ball. This year I’m sure most of us would been more than happy getting a little wet while preparing the ball diamond to play.

But there is a slight light at the end of the tunnel. Baseball Alberta on this past Friday just announced a program for returning to train starting on June 15th. We will start to see some players out on the field doing practices at least. Nothing as yet for anything that would resemble a real ball game, but there’s still always hope, at least until the snow flies.

This week our time machine will take us back to the 1997 ball season. The Blue Jays didn’t have a great year and finished fifth in the American League East with a record of 76 wins and 86 losses. The Florida Marlins won the World Series over the Cleveland Indians.
The Elk Point Midget Sox were entering their third season of provincial play. This was their second season at the midget level. The new Bassett Field, a brand new midget ball diamond had just been completed the previous fall. Built to the major league specifications with a shale infield and .90 foot base lines. And a monster outfield 400 feet to center and 330 down the lines. Just in case you know, we might field a senior team some time in the future. With the rocks picked and grass growing it was ready for action. Dug outs and a sound booth were getting constructed in the next few weeks.

This was still many years before the new Baseball Alberta tiering system that went into place in the mid 2000’s . Up until then only seven teams in the province and the host qualified for the Provincial Finals. Our plan was to eventually apply and host the Provincial Finals But we needed a diamond first. The past two years we had played on a softball diamond with the bases sitting out passed the infield into the grass. And our outfield was only 275 feet to center. Too short for the midget baseball players.

The Sox ball club was really starting to gel. Most of the boys were returning from the past two years and were learning how to play at a competitive level . We grew some attitude too. The Sox were not going to be pushed around or lay down for any team. Boys being boys!  I honestly think you need a little attitude to win at any type of sports. As long as it can be controlled by the coaching staff when need be.

A few of us midget coaches had got together in the winter time and created the new North East Alberta Midget ball league for the months of May and June. It was a house league with the basic aim for all of us to play competitive games as a warm up for the Provincials. Provincials were only three or four weekends in the month of July at the time. The teams included Two Hills, Wainwright, Consort, Lac La Biche, Bonnyville, St Paul and Cold Lake.

The Cold Lake and Wainwright were always our biggest rivalries . Both of them had some strong pitching and that made our boys better batters so I liked to play against them. This was before the days of pitch count. Most teams only had one or two aces, but would use them against us because we had a fairly strong hitting team.

That year we had played the Cold Lake Cardinals about four times in a short span of about 10 days . And the boys, plus myself to be honest really didn’t like to lose to them. Quite a few times attempts were made to jar the ball free on small collisions on the bases by both teams. The guys could have been just bumping accidentally, but most likely it wasn’t an accident . Lots of chirping between the two teams too. One night things finally heated up. Shaun ‘Barney’ Moroziuk was running between second and third base attempting to steal. The Cardinals short stop (accidentally) stuck his foot out tripping him. ‘ Barney took exception to that. Both dug outs unloaded onto the field. I looked up from my scorebook and couldn’t believe my eyes. A bench clearing brawl was happening. No one was hurt fortunately but their coach Dave Krook and I agreed we better call it a night The Cardinals would go on to play in the AA provincials which I believe they may have won. We were a single A town so we didn’t have to meet them again until the next year.

When it came time for the provincials I figured this was going to be our year to go to the show. We had been close the year before. Most of our players were returning and we would be older and stronger. And I was getting smarter as a manager learning when to give the pitcher the hook. One batter too many and you would almost always lose the game. Playing our round robin games we won 3 out of 10 games for a .300 average. Not great but good enough. Clyde won 3 games as well. But because we had actually beaten them in round robin, Baseball Alberta sent the schedule and we had squeaked in as the eighth team. We starting making our plans for camping out in Consort. Pack you bags boys were going to the big show ! But, two days before the main event I received a call from Baseball Alberta. They were sorry but had made a big mistake. One of the teams was a no show for a game against Clyde. Clyde was given a win for that game by default. Clyde had finished the round robin with four wins. The Sox had three. They were in and we got the shaft!

That was it! The next year we were hosting the Provincial final. No matter how much politicking it took I was going to get it. And we did. And hosted the Midget Provincial Finals ten more times after that as well.

As a consolation that year, two of the Sox players were drafted to play in the 1997 Provincial Finals in Consort. Both of them were decent pitchers and our two best hitters. Tyler ‘the Mouth’ Wawawa lead the team with a .532 batting average. He was picked up by Acme and they actually won the gold medal. Jordan ‘ Buhner ‘ Bassett the Sox team leader in home runs and RBI’s was picked up by Strome, a team that ‘ Buhner’ had hit two home runs against out of their park in the round robin a few weeks before. Strome lost out in the semi -finals, but would return to win the Provincials the very next year.

 

And now for the K.A Campbell quote of the week.’ Y is for Young. The magnificent Cy; People batted against him, but I never knew why.” – Ogden Nash

About Doug Bassett

As Elk Point's resident sportshound, Doug Bassett has been actively involved in the local sports scene for over 30 years. He's been writing sports reports on local amateur sports starts for 20 years. Down-to-earth honest sports reporting, Doug will bring you updates on the sports that matter the most; your kids! Known for giving every kid on the team a unique nickname and highlighting their attributes, Doug will make sure you're up-to-date with scores, games, and locker room antics!