Port McNeill hurler Nick Russell delivers a pitch during Sunday's 4-3 win over the Comox Valley Terrible Turnips at the annual Sointula Baseball Tournament.

Baseball a family affair in annual Sointula tournament

Hyde Creek Hillbillies claim second straight title in long-weekend event

SOINTULA — When his manager came out of the dugout to relieve him in the bottom of the sixth inning, Sointula Family Affair pitcher Zack Swason threw down the ball in indignation. Then he flung his glove for good measure, and threw his arms into the air.

He might have been less demonstrative had the manager not been his father, Art Swanson.

The Sointula Family Affair, the brainchild of longtime local Ross Michelson, was the newest entry into last weekend’s annual Sointula Baseball Tournament. Their colour-coded T-shirts identified the players by family — yellow for the Shuttlesworths, dark green for Swasons, black for Munroes, red for Michelsons and light green for Tanners.

“Ross came up with the idea around Christmastime,” said Art Swason, who had three children on the team. “He figured this might be the last year we could play with our kids.”

The team mixed parents with children born and raised in Sointula, many of them who have moved away and returned for the annual long-weekend reunion. In the dugout and on the field, it was clear the squad emphasized fun over competition.

“There’s been a lot of joking and ribbing. Inter-generational stuff, if you know what I mean,” John Shuttleswoth said.

The creation of the team was not without repercussions, however. The centerpiece of the tournament, which included teams from Port McNeill, Hyde Creek and the Comox Valley, has always been the showdown between Sointula’s Old Guys and Young Guns teams.

The Family Affair raided from both of those established teams to fill its roster.

“I think I ruffled some feathers in town,” Michelson admitted. “But I figured it would be the only chance I’d have to play with my kids.

“There’s still a Young Guns team; they got some other players from the surrounding communities. But I took all their pitchers and catchers.”

After absorbing an 18-0 loss to eventual tourney champion Hyde Creek in the opening game, the Family Affair eventually settled in and became competitive on the field.

They played to a 6-6 tie with the Sointula Old Guys Sunday in a game halted due to a time limit, then dropped a narrow 5-4 decision Monday to the Terrible Turnips, one of the two visiting clubs from Comox.

The Hyde Creek Hillbillies won their second straight tournament title, finishing with a 5-0 record by topping Comox’s Ravishing Radishes 7-2 in Monday’s final.

The Radishes and the Port McNeill Rangers each finished with 3-1 records in round-robin play. The Radishes won the tiebreaker into the final based on their 4-1 win over the Rangers, which denied the Rangers a title shot against their North Vancouver Island Baseball League rivals.

After a breezy, chilling opening day, Sunday and Monday were blessed by sunny skies and warm temperatures. The kids playground adjacent to the field was filled, as was the beer-garden area where the traditional oyster feed was held.

On Sunday, a big-screen television was set up under a canopy and connected to a satellite dish to show the Vancouver Canucks’ 4-2 NHL playoff win over San Jose. It marked the third weekend in a row the Hillbillies got to watch hockey at a ballfield, after teammate Keith Balcke set up a dish and placed a TV in the dugout at Hyde Creek Ballpark the previous two weeks.

This time, the television was installed by the Sointula Lions Club, which raffled it off following the game. Had the Lions not put up the television, however, Balcke was ready again.

“Keith brought all his stuff in his truck,” Hillbillies teammate Ray Bono said. “They wouldn’t let him put it up.”

 

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