With even more teams on the roster than last year, the Hay River Mixed Slo-pitch League is growing again – both in size and popularity.
“We have pretty much the same goals as last year,” said president of the league Rachel Daigneault-Durocher.
“We want people to come out, have fun and play some good ball.”
This year the league sports 12 teams, including one that travels in for their games from Fort Resolution. Daigneault-Durocher said both ball fields in town host two games each Mondays and Wednesdays, with an extra game added at the Pine Point Ball Diamond on Fridays, which has so far proven popular for both players and spectators.
“It’s great to see so many people coming out to the games,” she said. “It really gives it more of a community feel when people come out to watch.”
Beyond attracting fans, Daigneault-Durocher said the league is upping its game in terms of what it can offer the players as well.
While they have usually hosted a barbecue at the Pine Point field as a wind-up party, this year, organizers are looking to put on a year-end banquet, complete with awards.
“You know, we all get to see each other when we play against the other teams, but this would really bring us together as a league in a social way,” she said. “We all like to get a bit dressed up and socialize somewhere other than a ball field sometimes.”
The other change to this year’s end-of-season will be that the wind-up tournament will be held over one weekend instead of two. Daigneault-Durocher said the decision was made in light of how many college students play in the league now in consideration of how difficult it is for them to come back two weekends in a row for games.
“It’s nice to see players of all age categories coming out to play,” she said, pointing out the Young Bucks and the newly formed K’Kamba’s as being manned by a majority of younger players.
“It’s good to know there are young people coming up who will keep the game and the league going.”
K’Kamba’s founder Luke Daigneault said his motivation was simple.
“There are always people wanting to play and the league always needs more teams,” he said.
This is not Daigneault’s first time introducing a new team to the league, however, as he helped organize another last year.
He said that when he asked around among his friends and people who felt they were spending too much time on the bench last year, he saw there was room for yet another team.
“I asked a few friends, we got together, and it turned out great,” he said.
Although the Water Bomber Classic, scheduled for the long-weekend, was cancelled due to too few teams signing up, Daigneault-Durocher said she is looking forward to the Coors Tournament in August.
“That’s really the biggest thing in our season,” she said, noting that it pulls in teams from all over the territory and northern Alberta. “Hopefully it will get even more people interested in coming out and playing and maybe we’ll have an even bigger league next year.”