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A Look Back as the Niagara Snappers Celebrate Season 20

April 30, 2018

Niagara Falls, ON - - A Look Back as the Niagara Snappers Celebrate Season 20



April 30, 2018

 

Niagara Falls ON -   I recall this date…September 18, 1998.  Good friend, Jay Paylove and I were discussing the fastball season that just concluded.  Jay played for the Duffs Kings and I for the Romby’s Rage.  Two teams that battled in the 1998 IFL Playoff final.  For those that don’t know, the IFL was a long standing men’s fastball league played out of Lancaster Park in St. Catharines.  Jay had fresh bragging rights this off season as he led Duffs to a 2-0 game sweep in the best of 3 finals.  Jay was lights out on the mound that playoff and shut down a very good hitting Romby’s club.  Prior to graduating to the IFL, Jay and I had played together with the St. Catharines Junior A’s and grew up as childhood rivals with Jay playing rep fastball for Grantham and I for Niagara Falls.  For those unfamiliar with the fastball landscape in the Niagara Region back then, these two centres and the players who played for each association were instant and at times very bitter rivals.  Hatred is a strong word but I can’t think of another one that best described how these two centres felt about each other.  Times were different.  It’s just the way it was.

 

 

Jay and I both pitched for our respective rep teams and despite intentionally hitting each other back in our peewee days (simply based on dislike!), as Junior players, Jay and I became pals as we shared a lot of common interests and just got to know each other as teammates instead of hated rivals.  So it was on that September evening in 1998 over a few black labels at Jays’ house, where we came up with the idea of starting our own team.  I took hold of Blake Paylove’s (Jay’s toddler son at the time and now current Snapper!) crayons and started sketching a jersey and we brainstormed some player and team names.  We enjoyed a few more black labels and dated the sketch.  An idea was born.

 

Fast forward to the Spring of 1999…a new team is on the Intermediate fastball scene.  The Niagara Snappers were a reality and began play in the Niagara Falls Men’s Fastball League.  Our first ever Head Coach was Bill Weaver who still today is very involved with the Club.  “Weav” has taken on countless responsibilities with the Snappers over the years.  From Head Coach, Administrator, Secretary, Shootout Tournament Convenor, Team Ambassador, Bench Coach to Advisor.  He has done and seen it all when it comes to the Snappers.  Weav coached me as a youth in Niagara Falls and having been raised in a single parent home by my Mother, Weav is as much of a father figure to me as anyone.  He taught us how to play the game and play it with class.  I’m forever grateful to him for not only fastball lessons but also some great lessons in life.  We love the man and would be lesser people if he wasn’t part of our lives.      

 

So a few seasons came and went with several ups and downs at the Intermediate level.  I recall a conversation over a few budweiser’s (yes our beer choice evolved!) with Weav that I will never forget.  Weav and I were contemplating what could lie ahead for the Snappers.  Let’s just say we were a very “social” group and often met up after games at the local bar/sponsor to discuss all things Snappers.  Weavs’ take at that time was that this team needed to make a decision and we had two options.  Either we were a group of guys who liked to socialize and mix in some fastball here and there or we were a competitive team that indulged when the time was right.  Either way, he told me he was with us 100% regardless of the direction we were planning on taking.  Weav saw more in this group than just a team using fastball as an excuse to socialize.  Weav truly believed in this team.  He also reminded me that we were not getting any younger and the time was now if we ever hoped to raise the teams competitive ceiling.  Jay and I took this advice and never looked back.  A few years in the Erie Travel League prepared the club for its first taste of open level play with the Snappers entering the Ontario ISC Travel League for the 2005 season.  During that season we saw the club compete in 9 tournaments, (winning 7 including the ISC II Ontario Qualifier), two leagues (ISC and GHFL) and the teams first ever ISC II Tournament of Champions appearance.  107 games in total over 5 months.  Wow…I look back at that season and wonder how we even pulled that off, allot of us with young children at the time and somehow still staying married to our awesome spouses! 

 

In 2008, the ISC World Tournament was being held in Kimberly WI.  The Snappers had a challenging off season leading up to this season as the team was debating internally on whether or not to make the jump to ISC level play and move on from the ISC II.  Having been the ISC II Tournament of Champion Finalists in 2007, the ISC was offering the club an automatic berth to Kimberly for 2008.  There was a definite divide within the group but at the end of the day the decision was made to take the ISC’s offer and move up.  I’m sure I can speak on behalf of the current group in saying we have absolutely zero regrets with this decision.  I still remember it like it was yesterday.  Walking through a wooded area from the parking lot to a clearing where a gorgeous Sunset Park (lower diamond) was there waiting.  What an atmosphere!  We had always heard about Sunset Park and how great a location it was.  I couldn’t have imagined a better place for the Snappers to participate in its first ever ISC World Tournament.  Unfortunately, the Snappers had the not so great pleasure of witnessing the offensive beat down Townline of Wisconsin gave our team in game 1 on that main diamond.  I remember asking Jay what the name was of the Townline player that was scorching us at the plate that warm, sunny afternoon.

“Oh, that’s Nick Shailes...heard he’s pretty good” Jay noted.

“Yeah, not bad at all” was my response. 

Welcome to the ISC Snappers!

 

Including 2008, the Niagara Snappers have competed in 5 ISC World Tournaments with the best finish being tied for 9th at the 2012 ISC World Tournament held in Midland.  Arguably the greatest victory in the Snappers history was at Currie Stadium that year.  Niagara, ranked #21 coming into the event, locked horns with the host, #5 ranked Midland Explores in an elimination game.  The Snappers come from behind 2-1 victory propelled the club to a top 10 finish all on an annual budget that year of just over $9000.  Andrew Phibbs put the Snappers on his back all week leading the club to a 5-2 World Tournament record with Phibbsy throwing every inning of every game as the team dealt with injuries to the pitching staff.  A truly stunning performance and great moment in the teams’ history.  An accomplishment that this group is so very proud of to say the least.

 

More memories and great moments to come?  We sure hope so!  To celebrate the Snappers 20th season, Niagara will be attempting to qualify for it’s 6th ISC World Tournament appearance and a return to Peter Hallman Ball yard in Kitchener ON.  The Snappers will once again be participating in the G.H.F.L. as well as the N.F.M.F.L. and here is a look at the teams’ tournament schedule for 2018:

 

Niagara Falls Mens Fastball League Early Bird – May 25-27

St. Clements – June 1-3

ISC Qualifier/Mitchell – June 15-17

ISC World Tournament/Kitchener – Aug 11-18

Elkland PA – Aug 24-26

 

ROSTER UPDATE: 

The Snappers are ecstatic to announce the commitments from a pitching staff who we hope will all play a major role in our seasons success.  Kyle Linton (Toronto ON), Andrew Phibbs (Hagersville ON) and Corey Costello (Pembroke ON) will all be counted on to perform to their abilities and lead this Snappers veteran laden club.  Please note that a complete roster will be announced at a later date.  The roster will once again have a truly local flavour, so no surprises here!

 

Take care and I look forward to seeing all the familiar faces of summer and this great game!

 

 

Perry Bartley

Niagara Snappers

Niagara Falls ON

misterpaulo@hotmail.com

 

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