News Stories

End of a fastball era as Ryder hangs Team Ontario coaching cleats up

September 12, 2017

Port Dover, ON - - End of a fastball era as Ryder hangs Team Ontario coaching cleats up

- Softball Ontario

As Team Ontario celebrated Canada Summer Games men’s softball gold in Winnipeg, George Ryder smiled and watched on as his players and the rest of the coaching staff celebrated.

And with a Canada Games gold medal around his neck, Ryder, who now lives in Port Dover, was ready to untie his red Mizuno cleats and place them on the pitcher’s rubber one last time.

A fastball legend in Norfolk that made his mark in the pitcher’s circle, was hanging them up as a coach for Team Ontario.

“It’s time for another coach to have as much fun as I have had with this age group within the Team Ontario program,” Ryder said. “I’m a lucky guy to have been able to coach so many great teams and great athletes.”

It’s been a great run for Ryder, who has coached for 17 years, winning five national titles, including a pair with the Jarvis Jrs (2002, 2003), Team Ontario in 2009 and 2013, as well as this Canada Summer Games gold.

Prior to that, Ryder was a local pitching legend.

After playing his minor ball in Delhi, Ryder won a juvenile B Ontario Amateur Softball Association championship in Simcoe in 1979. Two years later, he helped lead Caledonia to a junior A OASA championship.

His men’s fastball days saw him on a variety of teams in Port Elgin, Southampton, Norwich, Waterford, Port Dover and Simcoe. There were of course many huge moments, including when he led Rockford Yins to a pair of Ontario Rural Softball Association intermediate A titles and placed second twice in the OASA intermediate C and intermediate A provincial championships.

Ryder also stood out in the senior men’s ranks, playing in four International Softball Congress World Tournaments for New Martinsville, West Virginia in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Once his playing days were over, he went back to his roots in Norfolk thanks to a call from a familiar voice.

The rest is history.

“Rick Cournyea, from Waterford got me into coaching,” Ryder said. “I started out being his assistant for the Waterford midgets in 1998. I really enjoyed working with Rick and the players. I caught the bug and wanted to work on becoming a better coach.”

During that time, he ran into Gil Read, who asked Ryder to join the Team Ontario program in 2006.

“I have coached fastball for 17 years, 15 of which are in the 18- to 23-year-old age group,” Ryder said. “I’ve been there enjoying every moment along the way ever since.”

And this year’s Canada Summer Games team was no exception.

“I am very proud to say I coached young men and they played and behaved like men throughout the Games within the respectful rules of Softball and the Canada Summer Games,” Ryder said. “I am so proud of them and their parents and siblings. I will never experience the low maintenance and respect for our game within this age group. They really are champions and the best team I have ever coached. It was also the greatest softball experience of my life.

“It was a huge moment for our team and program,” he said. “Seven of our athletes won for the first time. It was also a first gold for our team leader Paddy Fitzgerald-Nolan and assistant coach Scott Searle. Mike Crawford was also brilliant as our pitching coach. I couldn’t feel happier for all of them and confident in saying it’s time to pass the torch as head coach of the Team Ontario program. Paddy was a true team leader and the athletes loved and respected her leadership. Gil Read, the architect of our Team Ontario program looked down on us and together we found a way as a team of athletes and coaches to get it done. In the end, for me, it was just a matter of trying to hold onto the reins because our team wanted it so much for each other, especially the athletes that had been cut from past Team Canada camps and Clayton Robinson, who lost his father last year to a hard-fought battle with cancer. Clayton was our youngest team member at 19 and inspiration to all of us.”

Darryl Smart

by Darryl Smart

Darryl Smart is a sports reporter with the Norfolk News. He can be reached at Follow Darryl on Twitter, and the Norfolk News on Facebook

Email: Facebook Twitter