The third annual mixed slo-pitch Waterbomber Classic grew this year to include 12 teams, larger-than-average crowds, and a Homecoming exhibition game.
“Slo-pitch is really starting to pick up,” organizer Rachel Daigneault-Durocher told The Hub on June 30. “It’s something everyone can enjoy and it’s nice to see the tournament growing along with the popularity of the sport.
This year, Hay River hosted two teams from Fort Smith and two from High Level, along with eight local teams. The tournament lasted four days and was played at both adult-sized ball diamonds to accommodate the schedule and number of players. The first two years of the Classic saw 10 and eight teams, respectively.
“We always raise money and give it away,” said Daigneault-Durocher. “The first year, we donated it to help the community of Slave Lake when they had that big fire, and last year it went towards the (ball field) twinning project.”
This year, the league paid for the Homecoming fish fry on June 29 at the NTCL property near Fisherman’s Wharf.
Daigneault-Durocher said having the Waterbomber Classic the same weekend as Homecoming was a happy coincidence, as the tournament is held the same weekend every year, and meant an increased number of spectators.
However, she would like to move it to a week earlier next year. While Canada Day falls on a Tuesday in 2014, the weekend of June 21 will be a long one.
“We’re also looking at making it a 24-hour tournament and having teams play all night long,” she said. “That’s how they did it years and years ago, and I remember my mother playing in it when I was young.”
There was a break in the tournament games on June 29 for the Homecoming exhibition game, which lasted four innings instead of the planned two.
“It was great to see a bunch of people who used to play ball come out and have fun,” said Daigneault-Durocher. “It brought out a great crowd, too, and you could tell they were really happy to play again.”
Heather Coakwell, a player on Cashtons team, said, if anything, having the Waterbomber Classic the same week as Homecoming was a good thing.
“There were some great players in that exhibition game who were back to play some really great ball,” she said.
Coakwell agreed with having the tournament over 24 hours as opposed to four days.
“We were out here at midnight last night and it’s not like it gets dark anyway,” she said. “Rachel has done such a great job organizing this event and with slo-pitch getting bigger, everyone can come out and watch just a generally fun event.”
But Daigneault-Durocher said she can hardly accept all the credit, instead she was keen to thank the volunteers – both associated with slo-pitch and not – for all their continued hard work.
“The volunteers in this town are amazing,” she said. “Not just specific groups, but everyone: family, friends, everyone.”