august2007

Attending a Hall of Fame Breakfast ISC Style

August 14, 2007

Kitchener, ON


Hall of Fame Ceremony

August 12, 2007
 
I took a few notes at today’s induction ceremony as I was impressed and moved by each and every one of the inductions. Just a few thoughts about each of these fine gentlemen and once done I realized that maybe there are some who would like to attend a HoF breakfast ceremony but do not know what is involved. Of course this year unless you booked your tickets early, you did not get to go, it was sold out, a full house, all 300 seats sold.
 
This speaks well of the respect there is for the sport and the people who make it what it is.
 
First off I will say that the Kitchener host organization working with the ISC have made the HoF Breakfast into a first class affair. John Thompson and his eager and talented committee leave nothing to chance.
 
The morning starts off by having everyone seated before 8am as at that time, the head table is piped in by a bag piper and the festivities begin. The head table is made up of ISC executives, host committee executive, locally mayors and MPP’s, etc. Current Hall of Fame members are introduced to those in attendance as are ISC specialists and commissioners. Others such as the blue crew are introduced.
 
After the obligatory welcoming remarks from the head table everyone lines up for a great buffet breakfast, the best meal of the week. This is an almost painless process as the hotel organizes four food serving areas and the lines move quickly. After everyone finishes their breakfast, the dishes are cleared and the formalities begin.
 
Today, each of the five inductees was introduced, first as a group, then one by one they are inducted. Each recipient has selected someone to introduce them to those in attendance and these introductions are moving, interesting, and entertaining. These are my own thoughts on them and the process.
 
Bob Tomlinson received the Bob Welby Memorial Award (Welby was a former ISC President, builder and well loved fastball leader) so the award is well named and Tomlinson a well deserving recipient. Bob Tomlinson has been involved in softball all his life as a player, coach, manager, ISC commissioner and vice president and even as an umpire but his main claim to fame was his work building a fastball newspaper from scratch and publishing it for years at a time when it was greatly needed. Bob’s skills as a journalist and publisher are well respected and he put them to good use and using slave labour (family) printed it and mailed it to news hungry fastball fans all over. Bob gave an outstanding history of the development of the paper and his love of the game and the people in the game. On a personal note, I met Bob in Summerside PEI in 1994 and that is where I first signed up for the Fastpitch Chronicle, so I fully related to Bob’s stories of his subscribers waiting anxiously for each issue, especially the pre-World Tournament issue where Bob went out on a limb each year (and these were the days before committee ranking) Bob ranked all the teams going to that year’s World Tournament and its amazing how close he came each year, all on his own. Bob gave credit to a host of friends and even strangers who made many contributions to his paper, making it more newsy and interesting to read. Clearly his Fastpitch Chronicle was a labour of love. I knew Bob Welby and called him my friend. I am sure he would be pleased that Bob Tomlinson was honored in his name.
 
Tim Wahl, catcher. Anyone who ever saw Tim play know he was one of the best, if not the best catchers ever to strap on the mask. A general behind the plate and a threat at the plate. Tim not only was a great hitter he was one of the greatest hitters in key situations. He was known for his deadly throwing ability from behind the plate, having nailed so many runners trying to steal a base or stretch out a hit. Tim was introduced by his sister who told of Tim’s love of baseball as a boy then his switch to Fastball and his rise in the ranks as a well respected catcher. We heard of his phenomenal record of awards, winning teams, and accomplishments. It is very moving to hear how a family follows the career of a loved one like this and supports him through his career. I had the pleasure of seeing Tim play in many world tournaments and great tournaments like the Perth Shooutout and was always impressed with his abilities behind the plate as well as his leadership on any team. On a personal note I had the pleasure of competing against Tim in Venezuela at the Pan Am Qualifiers in 1998 (no I was not a player, I had the honour of being the Team Leader for the Canadian National Team under Terry Baytor). I was pretty upset to see Tim’s Team USA beat us, but fully respected his ability as a catcher. The next year I had the privilege of helping Neil Fennell with his “Ontario Tour” when Team USA toured Ontario and I got to travel with them and see Tim in action. Not only was I always impressed with his ability on the field, I respected him a gentleman. You could really tell that Tim was genuinely touched by this recognition today and really appreciated it. He will wear his HoF ring with pride. Of interest was that Tim still looks like he could play today. He keeps in shape and coaches baseball and wrestling.
 
 
Peter Meredith, pitcher. Anyone who has the followed the game knows who Peter is. 23 straight years pitching in the ISC World Tournament. A long list of awards and records both at the World’s and in the sport in general, and known as one of the two pitchers in the longest game ever played. Peter chose his good friend Ron Chambers (ISC Broadcaster and former coach) to introduce him and took the chance on getting embarrassed by his old friend. Ron told some interesting and funny stories about Peter’s career and we all got a glimpse of Peter the man. We already knew he was an outstanding pitcher. Peter came to the USA as a very young man and Ron chanced to see him play and picked him up for his team and followed him back to his native New Zealand to play some winter ball there. Peter brought Ron his first national championship winning their national’s and of note the championship game was against the well regarded Marty Grant, also a young man at that time. Peter also looks like he could still play, tall and lean. His focus these days is his beautiful 3 year old little girl.
 
Lloyd Simpson, pitcher, coach, builder, former ISC vice president. The late Lloyd Simpson was inducted through his grandson Jamie Simpson, another highly regarded fastball player. Lloyd had 20 children and 50 grand children many of whom have been involved in ball. Lloyd played and coached ball all his life and early on heard about the ISC and fell in love with the concept. He took an Owen Sound team to the ISC’s and is recognized for his work to bring the ISC to Ontario and to Canada. He built teams and leagues and kept the game alive. Quite possibly there would be no ISC Travel League in Ontario today if not for Lloyd. It was so interesting to hear from his grandson how his two passions in life (his wife and his fastball) took most of his time. Lloyd was so well known in Ontario and even beyond, he was a legend. I met the man once, years ago in Richmond Hill at Town Park when he brought a Virgin Islands team to the hill for an exhibition game. I saw him with his ISC hat and shirt on and introduced myself and enjoyed a long discussion with the man. We learned today that Lloyd would be known for his ability to talk and it brought back memories to many in attendance. We also learned today that Lloyd even wore his ISC gear when he went jogging. Jamie used his pedagogical skills to use Power Point to do a history lesson on his granddad and it was very interesting. Lloyd would be looking down and smiling today at his children, grandchildren and his much loved ISC. I have known Lloyd’s grandson Jamie for years and his dad Bill for years longer and know they come from a great fastball family. Jamie also introduced his grandmother who said a few words. The family involvement with those being inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame is very strong.
 
Larry Lynch, coach. Larry, “Hawk” Lynch has been much more than a coach, he has been involved in the game in every capacity, often at the same time. Larry’s name has been synonymous with the Kitchener and/or Waterloo Twins for many many years. Those who follow the team and/or who have played with them know that it was Larry who kept that team going for so many years and is indeed responsible for much of its successes. For Larry’s induction, he chose his good friend and former catcher Craig Crawford and his arch nemesis Jack Fireman. Larry had recruited Craig out of junior to come and catch for him and was a major influence on Craig’s settling in the Kitchener area. Jack Fireman on the other hand was the owner of the famous Toronto Gators and was on many occasion his opponent on the field. In spite of that the two clearly have great respect for each other and Jack came forward willingly to speak of Larry’s accomplishments. Craig of course spoke well of Larry’s leadership abilities and of their friendship. Craig experienced some of Larry’s quirks while traveling to tournaments by van with the boys. Larry has had a major influence on Craig’s life as he has on many of his players. Craig showed an entertaining power point presentation of some of Larry’s fastball pictures over the years.  Jack spoke of many funny incidents with Larry while the two had teams in the ISC Travel League and often did battle on the field. Jack managed to squeeze in more than a few comments regarding seeing some members of his own former Toronto Gators being inducted into the ISC Hall of Fame some day in the future. Larry is one of the better speakers in our sport but it was a major challenge to speak of his own feelings towards his induction but I was very impressed with his stories of traveling to tournaments all over Canada and the USA. With a low budget team, the team never flew, they drove, but he turned that into a positive experience, relating how much more enjoyable and educational it was to travel as a group. Larry has a few other interests besides softball and he managed to introduce his team mates to the finer side of searching for baseball memorable and antiques. Clearly he built some very strong relationships with his team members over the years. Larry told some great stories about ball players that were with him for years that most people there would remember, including his pitchers Dan Yantzi and Jimmy Schnarr; his catchers Al Taylor, Brian Stere and Jeff Franklin, and so many great ball players like Jeff “Spinner” Spencer. I have always been impressed with Larry’s way with words and have characterized him as a well spoken version of Casey Stengel. We learned today that Larry is known for coming up with something new and entertaining, if not inspiring at every huddle before every game. We also learned how important family is to him and what the game means to him. I have known Larry since 1994 as well, and can say that his induction into the ISC Hall of Fame is a great choice.
 
Today’s Hall of Fame ceremony was a very enjoyable experience, made so by the wise selection of five very deserving individuals and by a group of hard working people who planned and delivered a great event. More than one person observed to me that they have seldom seen so many people moved to the point of tears over and over during the ceremony. I think that had a lot to do with the fact that so many of the experiences related today involved family and friends and it touched each and every one there.
 
Indeed, if you ever get a chance to attend a Hall of Fame ceremony at the ISC World Tournament, jump at the chance, you will not regret it.
 
 
 

Al Doran
fastball@pmihrm.com
www.AlsFastball.com
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