The Hay River Heat is gearing up for another shot at the territorial men’s fast pitch title this weekend and is looking forward to playing on home turf.
“This is the first year in about four or five that we go on multiple tournaments, so we’ve got some preparation for the championship,” said Glenn Smith, vice-president of the Hay River Mixed Slo Pitch League, referring to the tournament in Yellowknife the team attended last month.
“We were two and two and lost in the semifinals to the Slades, who won the tournament. We feel prepared. We’ve strengthened our team.”
The last time the championships were held in Hay River in 2013, the Heat lost in the final game. After a disappointing showing in Yellowknife last year in which the team lost every game it played, Smith said the team is looking to fight its way back into that final game.
The Pine Point Ballpark will play host to the men’s fast pitch territorial championship this weekend, with four teams from the capital joining The Heat on the field.
Kyle Kugler, a member of the fast pitch association’s executive, said that although he didn’t have the final numbers confirmed at the time, it was looking like it’s going to be one of the bigger tournaments of the summer.
“It’s going to be fun for everyone to go get a chance to play on grass,” he told The Hub. “It should be a fun weekend for everyone.”
Smith said there had been a slim chance that the new field at the ballpark would be ready for the tournament, but ultimately the deadline was too tight.
He did add, however, that if all goes to plan, the second field currently under construction should be ready to go for the August long weekend Coors Light slo-pitch tournament, one of the most popular of the season.
“The teams from Yellowknife really look forward to coming down here to play on grass,” said Smith, noting that the capital’s outfields lack the greenery of Hay River’s. “But it’s also just a great atmosphere out here.”
Smith said the fans are one of his biggest motivations for working to get events like the championships to happen in Hay River. He said about 200 people turned out to watch the games in 2013.
“It’s great to see people out in the crowds having a great time and cheering on the teams,” he said. “Hopefully there will be crowds again this year.”
— Sarah Ladik