As the sun beat down on the Port Hardy Umpire’s Association Ice Breaker Slo-Pitch Tourney last weekend, sunglasses were the norm.
But, during an emotional finale to the weekend, the same sunglasses hid more than a few tears.
Organizers David and Leigh Deans doled out the Popeye candy cigarettes before the crowd raised them in a toast to a former stalwart of North Island ball, Jack Tompkins, who passed away to cancer.
“As most of you know, we’ve lost a good friend,” said David. “In his honour, this field (field 2 at the Storey’s Beach diamonds) will now be called the Jack Tompkins Memorial Field. To Jack.”
Organizers then read the final standings and handed the winnings to the teams who played in the 7-innings, skins format tourney.
The top side in the tourney was Island Reign, most of whose players made the trip up Island for the tourney. So when Jake Cobourne of the Master Batters collected his team’s winnings and handed them off to the Reign’s captain Russ Taylor there were some confused looks from some of the crowd.
Others had a knowing smile as the pair shook hands and embraced. Then a string of other captains approached Taylor to hand over their envelopes before the Reign captain got called up to collect his own team’s winnings.
“Three weeks ago my mum got diagnosed with breast cancer,” explained Taylor, who recently moved to Port Hardy. “She’s going to have to go for surgery and she’ll be off on disability for a while, so I called up these guys to come up and play and try and get some money for her… Thank you all so much,” he said, going to hug his mum as he and much of the crowd fought back tears.
Taylor’s mother Debbie was watching the tourney, but had no idea what her son and his friends were planning, and none of them had counted on North Island generosity, as team after team came over to donate their winnings to the cause.
A quick count told the tale: the Reign’s well-deserved $630 purse for the win had been swollen to over $2,200 through donations from the other players.
“This is amazing,” said Russ.
While there was plenty of good will off the field, the Reign had to earn it’s wins on the diamond. The down-Islanders were up to the task however, with all-around solid play.
Reign faced off against the local Bluesox in the AA final, sweeping the seven innings against the home side.
The Reign opened on bat and set out their stall early, hitting the three home run limit in the second. The heavy hitters of the Reign sent three more over the fence for two outs and a foul during the game, while their fielders proved lightning quick, claiming a pair of double plays in the game, captain Russ earning male MVP at second base.
The visitors didn’t have it all their own way though, as the locals tied three innings, holding the Reign to zero twice.
Short stop Ryan Handley was a standout in the field for the local side, making a series of great plays. At bat, the visitors paid for underestimating female MVP Sterrin Lazarowich, moving in only to have the ball popped over the outfield for an RBI double in the sixth.
Despite a good showing from the local side, the Reign were indomitable, and ran out deserving 7-0 winners.
In the BA final, the Bandits beat out the Boozers 5-2. The Boozers had three homers in the final to the Bandits’ one.
The sixth proved decisive in the game. A tied fifth inning doubled the stakes for the sixth with the Bandits ahead 3-1.
A series of misfields allowed the Bandits to rack up five for the inning and despite sending one over the fence to bring home a base runner the Boozers couldn’t find any more runs, allowing the Bandits to stretch out to a 5-1 lead.
The Boozers struck out the Bandits for nil in the final inning and ran one in to make it 5-2 for the game.
Ice Breaker Tournament (Skins format)
Island Reign 7-0 Blue Sox
1. Island Reign
2. Blue Sox
1. Master Batters
2. Canadian Ehs
3. Salmon Kings
Bandits 5-2 Boozers