With an ambulance full of ice, painkillers and oxygen on standby, players from two renowned Hay River slo-pitch teams took to the field on Aug. 16 for the first-annual Gord Bolt Slo-Pitch Challenge to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society.
“We just got a great response, especially from the players,” said organizer Jeff Brockway. “Some of them were a little anxious about playing. Some haven’t played in 17 or 18 years, but it’s for fun and for a good cause.”
The game brought together two old-but-friendly rival teams, the Bullets and the KC Blues. Most of the players had been members in the 1990s and came out to help raise money and awareness of cancer research, but also to remember Gord Bolt, who was a leader to some, fierce competition to others, but a friend to all.
“Gord was a pioneer for slo-pitch in Hay River,” Brockway said of his friend who lost his battle with cancer in 2009. “He was an original Bullet, our team leader, and he kept us on our toes.”
Despite having a heavy dose of competitive spirit, Brockway said Bolt would always have been the first to win sportsmanship awards and was one of the fairest men he ever knew.
Two of Bolt’s three children were in attendance, dressed in new Bullets jerseys, though not playing.
Stacey Bolt-Barnes said she was overwhelmed with the response from the community and was pleased to see so many old-time ballplayers out for the evening.
“All three of us play ball,” she told The Hub. “The whole family is big into it and it’s because of dad.”
As of Aug. 18, over $2,700 had been raised, with more still expected to come in from pledges and donations. The game itself was friendly with neither the players nor the spectators packed into the bleachers taking it too seriously.
“It’s always a blast,” said Bolt-Barnes. “We always have a good time being out here playing ball.”
There are tentative plans to incorporate future instalments of the challenge game into the Coors Light Slo-Pitch Tournament held earlier this month. Bolt-Barnes said that way they can invite Fort Smith teams and players to join, as they were a large part of Hay River’s slo-pitch scene when her father was playing.
And there are definite plans for future instalments, according to Brockway.
“This will be a yearly event, no doubt about it,” he said. “Just the response from everyone has been amazing. There are a bunch of players who couldn’t make it today who said they really wished they could.”
In the end, the Bullets won 8-7 over the KC Blues in extra innings, but the real winner, said Brockway, was the Canadian Cancer Society.
“It was great to see all the players and spectators out to remember Gord and support the cause,” he said. “We’ll see them all next year.”
— Sarah Ladik