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Thursday , 22 October 2020

SPORTSHOUND: Ready to play, but not today

Image: Elk Point Midget Sox 1999

Tales from the Doug-Out: July 7th, 2020

Congratulations to all the 2020 graduates. The class of 2020 is the one that everyone will remember forever. The year it didn’t happen.
This past weekend got me thinking of all the years we did have grade 12 ceremonies and baseball provincials.  I coached a lot of midget ball teams (twenty years in fact),  and the two weekends I dreaded the most were the Lea Park Rodeo weekend and of course the grad weekend.
Not sure why Lea Park was such an attraction for our ball players. Maybe it was the girls from Dewberry and Marwayne? But it was always hard to find 9 or 10 players that weekend.
Grad weekend of course was party on and nothing else mattered. Most of the time my ball players were committed on the weekends. One or two players may have gone on a run away and be little sick and tired, but as long as you could rely on the rest of them to stay clean you will  be able to win a game or two the next day. But not on grad weekend. Not only did it effect your actual graduates on your team but usually the whole team is in either grade 11 or 12. Eighteen and seventeen year old guys. The odd one is in grade 10 but even those 16 year old players want to party. Small town graduation is a big deal.
It’s always a good idea to have at least a dozen players signed up for a midget team. Fifteen is even better. Midget aged kids have jobs and girlfriends. When you do this for a while you learn to plan ahead. At practice on Thursday night I would line up a couple of bantam aged players knowing we are going to have a problem. Brian ‘Putts’ Poitras and Mark ‘the Marksman’ Letestu were two of the guys I would rely on  Still too young to party. Only 14 or 15 at the time.
One grad I remember really well. Everyone was meet at the arena at 6:30 am.  We played our first game in Wainwright at 9:00am. That would still give me time to find a couple of the boys.  An hour and a twenty minutes  to Wainwright max. That’s stopping for munchies and not speeding….too much. Still have time of a warm up and do the line up.
Kids didn’t have a cell phones back them. Guys who did were working in the oil patch like myself would have one but it was wired in the truck and not portable. And we didn’t text back then. We still used the good old land line. So if a player wasn’t up and at the meeting place by a certain time I would phone and get a parent to get the player up. Then try to get them to get the player on the phone.
Here’s how the conversations would usually go:
Me: Are you coming today?
The Player: Do you really need me? I’m supposed to go to my grandparents today.
Me: You didn’t say anything about that on Thursday night at practice.
The Player: I forgot.
Me: Well we need you I will be there in five minutes.
Face to face these guys couldn’t lie to me and would get dressed and away we would go.
This particular year I knew the boys would be up all night. Driving around town, I picked up Dustin ‘Bones’  Yarmemkevich and Curtis ‘Crow’ Croteau walking on their way home from the party. Then over to Jon ‘Shaky’ Yake’s picked up him and Preston ‘Krank’ Krankowski who was also crashed there.  Stop at Tags and hit the road south.
Wainwright ball diamond was in the middle of town. A nice diamond other than the fact they didn’t have dug outs or any kind of shade. The closest trees were on the other side of the street. The boys were dying in the heat. Laying around on the grass behind the bench  in the boiling heat dehydrated from the night before. Begging me to pull them out of the game. I was pumping water into them inning trying to make it through the day. We only had 10 players and once you pull a player that’s it. He couldn’t go back in the game. And if someone did get hurt you would have to forfit the game. We didn’t do very well that day.
The next day was a different story. The boys went straight to bed when we got home. The game was late afternoon at 6:00 pm and they were all rested and were ready to go. At the time Wainwright had a strong team but we could hold our own against them. But they also had a smarter coach. Been in the game longer than you know who.
Greg ‘the Bull’ Zarowny was pitching the game and he was in the zone. Bull was without a doubt the fastest pitcher the Sox ever had.  The ‘Bull’ was left handed and had a very scary fastball that tended to curve into the right handed batters. The ball did a lot of other funny things and nobody to this day could explain how it moved so crazy up and down. Sometimes he would have a problem with his control but not on this day. Wainwright couldn’t even touch him. Three up three down.
We were leading by one to zip the whole game until the final inning when the Bull hit a player. The kid was hurt for sure and was replaced on base by a sub. Who just happened to be a faster base runner and was given the green light. The Wainwright player managed to steal second. He then made it to third safely when our catcher did  a over throw to second attempting to catch him .  The tying run on third. The smart Wainwright coach called for a squeeze play. Bunting the ball down the third base line the run scored. We overthrew the ball to first trying to get the batter out and the winning run is now on second. It worked once why not try it again. The next batter bunted too. Our guys were rattled. They threw the ball over the first baseman’s head and it’s game over. Wainwright wins.  But what a shame for the Bull. Best game I ever saw him throw. And we threw it away!
K.A. Campbell quote of the week. ‘ It’s a great day for baseball. Let’s play two.’ -Ernie Banks

About Doug Bassett