Fastpitch grows as new field opens

Shane Magee/NNSL photo Curtis Rowe hits a foul ball during the fast pitch game on Canada Day at the new Pine Point Park ball diamond. July 1, 2016

Shane Magee/NNSL photo
Curtis Rowe hits a foul ball during the fast pitch game on Canada Day at the new Pine Point Park ball diamond.
July 1, 2016

Canada Day served as a kind of christening for the new Pine Point ball diamond by Hay River fastpitch players.

The field saw its first fastpitch game, a fun competition between the Hay River Heat and a second team assembled with spare players and slo-pitch softball players.

The for-fun game was the third of roughly five scheduled games between the teams.

That schedule represents an expansion of fastpitch in the town, said Glenn Smith.

“This is pretty much the first year we’ve had games scheduled throughout the summer,” Smith said.

It’s only been this year there has had enough players coming out to schedule games, he said.

“We haven’t had games out here in years and year and years. Fastpitch on Canada Day used to be huge here back in the day but it’s a dying sport.”

Previously the Heat practised and travelled to tournaments elsewhere or competed in tournaments held here, such as with last year’s territorials.

The holiday game under a sweltering sun drew a crowd family and friends numbering more than 60 to the new wooden stands overlooking the grassy field.

“It’s awesome because we’ve got a good crowd and a good game,” Smith said.

The game was close early on, though Smith’s team lost 5-4 after several late innings without runs coming home.

“Certainly, it was a tight game,” he said, complimenting the pitchers for both teams.

Getting in games, he said, is important practice for the players ahead of the NWT Men’s Fastpitch Championships in Yellowknife this month.

“To be able to get some games in now is really helpful for the tournaments,” he said.

The team came second during a June tournament in Yellowknife.

The Heat were winless during the Stonebridge Hotel Summer Classic in Grande Prairie, Alta., held the last weekend of June against some of the best teams from that province.

After the territorials in Yellowknife, attention will return home when Hay River plays host to the 2016 Western Canadian Masters Fastpitch Championships at the end of this month.

Smith said he thinks a grand opening ceremony for the new field could take place during that tournament.

Smith, who is also vice-president of mixed slo-pitch, chaired the Pine Point Ball Park Expansion Association.

For his role in pushing the expansion, the field may well be named after him.

Town council voted June 27 to support naming the ballpark the Glenn Smith Field.

“The new field was Mr. Smith’s dream and without his vision, leadership and dedication the second field would not have been done,” a staff report to council about the designation states.

Council also supported renaming the Pine Point Ballpark as the Keith Broadhead Memorial Ballpark.

-Shane Magee with files from James McCarthy