Legends of Fastball Wrap Up

June 29, 2010

Kitchener, ON

The 2010 Legends of Fastball Classic has gone with the wind, and rain, but many memories linger for the large crowd that took in the event over the past weekend.
Congratulations to the new Legends Champions, the Jarvis Travelers. A new name will go on the trophy this year after 4 straight years of the Riversharks claiming that tournament distinction. Ironically, the initial two events, held in Woodstock, were won by the boys from Broken Bow who now partner with the country boys from Jarvis.
If there was ever any doubt about the wisdom of the ISC ranking system it was certainly put to the test this weekend. Of the current top 4 spots all four lost to one of the other teams making for an exciting final day in Hallman Ball Yard. The ISC II teams showed there was little space between the ‘Big Boys” and the “Upstarts” as Port Elgin Blue Devils, Kitchener Cubs and Niagara Snappers all performed with class and determination in  two very tough divisions. The Elmira Expos also showed their grit in battling back from a meager 1-0 deficit in the bottom of the 7th before losing to the reigning world champion Rivershark Twins, in nine innings .
The rain may have dampened the spirits on Saturday morning but it was the Legends ceremony at 2:30 that afternoon that left few in attendance with a dry eye in the park. Led by a colour guard from the Royal Canadian Legion, the host committee honoured two legendary performers in George Ryder and Bob “ Bongo “ Baird. For George it was an exceptionally special occasion. He received his award from his boyhood pitching hero Pete Landers, while joining him to celebrate were his mother and father ages 86 and 90 respectively. Both received a warm welcome and it was a special moment when his father rose for a bow and salute to the crowd.
As 4 teams rimmed the perimeter of the infield Sandy and Colin Baird accepted a Legends award on behalf of their husband and father Bongo, who lost his battle with cancer last Fall. So many of the players on the field and in the stands had shared the bench with Bongo, and all of them were visibly moved by the stoic acceptance by his loving family.
The final award to Trooper Chris Sherry and his Royal Canadian Dragoons put life into perspective for all of us, on the field and in the stands. As Trooper Sherry read from a prepared speech the park went totally silent except for his voice in reflection of the horrors of Afghanistan and the reality of the hardships our troops work in every single day. As his mother stood proudly beside him we all gave silent thanks to every soldier fighting abroad that allows us the freedom and the ability to spend our family time in the ball parks of North America, in safety.
For the first time in the 7 year Legends run a junior division was played on the Ball Yards 3rd diamond. Congratulations to the Fingal Jrs. who bested the field that included the Waterloo Jr. Twins, the Brantford Heat and the Linwood Jr. Chiefs. The junior side attracted great crowds in their own right and it with the opportunity to share the park with the best in the game it was a great bridge between the Legends of today and the Legends of tomorrow.
A major tournament event does not just happen and I would like to thank the stellar committee chairs who worked so tirelessly to organize, facilitate and labour through the extended hours of the entire weekend. To Sue Sherry, Dave McLelland, Ray Alviano, Dennis Dosman, Jim Urhig and Duncan Matheson my sincere thanks for the tireless hours of time you and your entire teams put into this event. To the ubiquitous John Thompson for finding the time to author and coordinate another outstanding Diamond Dirt, thank you for your gift of turning a phrase. To The Royal Canadian Legion , your colour guard made our Legends ceremony very special for not only the fans but more so for those accepting awards on the field. To the Legends honourees, George Ryder and the family of Bongo Baird , thank you for your contribution to the game on and off the field. To Trooper Christopher Sherry our thanks for being part of a stirring ceremony and our heartfelt gratitude to your entire troop of Royal Canadian Dragoons for carry out your duties in pursuit of safety in a county of violence.
To all of the companies big and small who donate their product, their equipment and their capital, thanks for finding us worthy of your sponsorship.
To the City of Kitchener staff who groomed the diamonds, mopped up the rain and kept the games on schedule in somewhat difficult circumstances, thank you.
Some of the best softball teams in the game were in the park this weekend but it means nothing without a similar group of officials. Thanks then to Bruce Bierman and his entire “Blue Team” for keep the games moving and calling ‘em’ as they see ‘em’. You guys are pros and the truly the best in the game.
To Ball Park Radio’s Jim Flanagan, thanks for setting up your broadcast on the final day, it made for great delivery to those who could not catch it live in the park. What would a ball park broadcast be without the  “boys behind the mike” , Kyle Smith and Blair Setford. You guys make sitting at home as exciting as sitting on the bench with your smooth and expert delivery of the play by play. You are no doubt the Jon Miller – Joe Morgan of big time fastball.
The press box would not be complete without the keyboard wizardry of Al Doran. Thanks as always Al for keeping the air waves hot with up to date scores, tid bits from the park and your own personal take on the good, the bad and dare I say ugly of the ballpark buzz.
It would not be a tournament in Kitchener-Waterloo without the fans. We have been the benchmark for early season tournament events for over 40 years now and while some of the games greatest teams have dusted up the diamond it has always been the fans that keep the game alive locally. So many of you have been a part of so many world class events over the years and you keep coming back with more knowledge, more opinions and more enthusiasm , year after year. The Legends Fastball Classic salutes you diehards who through rain or shine find your spots along the fence line, in the bleachers and dare I say in the beer tent, to support our cause and to really keep our game alive.
Finally, to the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada and their passionate and tireless local leader, Anne Boehm, you are the gold standard of volunteers. There is no way we could ever run this event without your tireless dedication and long hours in the booth, at the gate and on the run all weekend. Hopefully our partnership over the years has helped fulfill a few wishes for the children who are fighting a battle with life itself. For the love of the game takes on a much bigger meaning when you are playing for something other than yourself.
See you next year.

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