3Cheers decides not to defend national senior men’s fastpitch title

January 10, 2015

St. John's, NL

3Cheers decides not to defend national senior men’s fastpitch title

ORIGINAL STORY by Robin Short - The Telegram



  NOTE: This story getting a lot of attention/discussion today on TWITTER


Team cites its ‘unsettling relationship’ with Softball Newfoundland and Labrador

Due to a long-standing rift with Softball Newfoundland and Labrador, the most successful senior men’s fastpitch team this province has ever seen won’t be returning to the nationals next summer to defend its Canadian championship.


3Cheers Pub/Bud Light won Softball Canada’s senior men’s championship in early September in Charlottetown, P.E.I., defeating another St. John’s based team, Kelly’s Pub Molson Bulldogs, in that sport’s first all-Newfoundland Canadian final.

It was the third straight national softball crown for 3Cheers Pub/Bud Light, erasing all those oh-so-close memories at the nationals.

But just when softball supporters were getting comfortable with success at the senior men’s level comes word the team is closing up shop, and passing up a crack at a fourth championship next summer in Sainte-Claire, Que.

The team’s coaching staff of John Hill, Softball Canada’s coach of the year for 2014 and a recently-appointed assistant coach for the senior men’s national team, Colin Abbott and Lee Cose, along with sponsor Junior Bruce, informed Softball Newfoundland and Labrador president Paul Smith last month they will not be returning to defend 3Cheers’ crown next summer.

And, as far as Hill is concerned, a number of the players concur.

Related story:

SNL president says province will be represented in 2015 tourney

“It’s been a very unsettling relationship the past three years (between the team and the governing body for softball in the province),” said Hill.

By all accounts, at the root of the problem are four issues:

• the use of import players

• SNL’s requirement of advertising for the team’s coaching staff each year

• SNL’s refusal to play host to a national senior men’s championship while Newfoundland is regarded as a national power

• making it a requirement that any player who wishes to compete at nationals must participate in the provincial championship

Under Softball Canada rules, each province is permitted to use two imports, i.e. players from another province, a number that was recently reduced from three. In 2012 and ’13, 3Cheers Pub dressed Ontario’s Ian Fehrman and Jeff Ellsworth of P.E.I. in their championship run, but last season used only Newfoundland born-and-bred athletes.

Softball Canada still considers players living elsewhere other than their home province as imports. What that means is in the eyes of the national body, Freshwater’s Stephen Mullaley and Sean Whitten of Petty Harbour, now living in Toronto and Calgary respectively, were imports on 3Cheers.

Softball Newfoundland and Labrador, which does not want any import players suiting up for Newfoundland, was willing to overlook Mullaley and Whitten.

“We didn’t have any imports this year, and we won, which indicates the level of talent we have here,” Hill said. “But the thing is, should we decide to bring in imports, we are allowed to do so under Softball Canada rules. But Softball Newfoundland refuses to abide by the rules of the national body.

“We would return (to the 2015 nationals) with the same team we fielded last summer, but what the import rule does is allow for this province to send a second team, a team that will contend. It allows for more local senior players, and it also allows for some of our best junior-aged ball players to attend a senior men’s national tournament, and gain valuable experience.”


Head coach would have to apply

Keeping in line with other all-star programs within the association, SNL in 2013 implemented a provision for its senior men’s program that would see this province send an all-star club to the nationals. And following in line with other programs, such as the junior men’s all-star team, the head coach will be selected by the SNL board through an application process. The coach will then select an assistant coach and manager, and quite likely a team sponsor.

“Softball Canada rules say the defending champs go back to nationals,” Hill said. “If we didn’t win, fine, I’m 100 per cent for an application process. But we won. Why are we monkeying with this?

“Softball Canada rules allow for the defending champs to return, but for whatever reason, SNL has decided they will make that decision. Look, we know the same players who were they last year will be there again, but the coaching staff and sponsor may change. The defending champs have a right to return, but Softball Newfoundland refuses to abide by the rule, and instead would prefer to have us wait for two months before deciding if we as a coaching staff and sponsor can return.

“This has happened for three years. It won’t happen again.”

At the same board meeting in 2013, Softball Newfoundland and Labrador also implemented a rule, that started last summer, requiring all members of the senior all-star team play in the provincial championship with their various club teams.

Many of the players suiting up for the 3Cheers squad perform on the U.S. ‘travel circuit’, that is toiling for Canadian and U.S.-based teams in various weekend tournaments staged throughout the summer.

Despite what Hill calls “lucrative” offers to play for other provinces at the Canadian senior men’s championship, each of the players have spurned the offers to dress for Newfoundland.

“Yet Softball Newfoundland brings in a rule basically saying, ‘Play in our provincials, or your banned.’ This was never, ever in place before. Why now? You don’t have to force these guys to suit up for Newfoundland . They love doing that. But the clear impression from the players’ perspective is you’re putting a gun to their heads.”

Newfoundland last played host to the senior men’s nationals in 2007, a very successful tournament by all accounts. Newfoundland’s Roebothan, McKay and Marshall won the silver medal following a 1-0 loss to Vancouver in the final, and from a financial perspective, the tournament finished in a healthy position with good attendance throughout the week.


Time for nationals here, says Hill

Given this province’s penchant for supporting fastpitch softball, coupled with 3Cheers’ success at nationals, Hill feels the time is right to stage another Canadian senior men’s championship. He contends, however, Softball Newfoundland and Labrador has been offered the senior men’s, “but for some unknown reason,” it has declined.

Hill maintains Bruce was willing to undertake staging the 2013 senior nationals — and accepting all financial risks in doing so — if SNL bid for the event.

“Our players are itching to win a championship in front of the hometown fans,” Hill said, “and I think the people who support softball here would enjoy seeing them win on home soil.”

However, according to both Hill and Bruce, the offer was turned down by SNL.

“Juney (Bruce) was told the (SNL) board couldn’t outright give him the nationals because there may be others out there who might want to be the host,” he said.

Fast forward a couple of years and Hill says a private group in the city, which includes Destination St. John’s, was offered by SNL the 2016 junior men’s nationals, a tournament that was eventually awarded to P.E.I.

“Where were the expressions of interest advertised for that event?” Hill asks. “Why wasn’t Juney allowed to take on the 2013 senior men’s, but another group was given the go-ahead for the 2016 juniors?

“The thing is,” said Hill, “it’s been one battle after another with Softball Newfoundland. We understand they’re the governing body for softball, and we understand there are rules in place. We are not looking at breaking the rules, or seeking special treatment.

“We just want Softball Newfoundland to follow the rules of the national body, Softball Canada. It’s an adversarial relationship, one that seems like they’re letting us know they’re the boss and we listen to them or else.

“Frankly, I’ve lost all confidence in the board, and so have many others. We’re done.”