HYDE CREEK — When the Vancouver Canucks' potential series-clinching NHL playoff game against Nashville Saturday was scheduled to be played at the same time as a North Vancouver Island Baseball League game, local ballplayers were faced with a tough decision.
Would they A) stick with teammates and take the field, or B) join much of the rest of the province and follow the Canucks on television.
Hyde Creek Hillbillies ballplayer Keith Balcke, however, chose option C.
"There's no way I'm going to miss the game," said Balcke. "So I put up a satellite dish on the dugout."
So, along with the usual detritus in the home dugout on a game day — batting helmets hung on a rack, bats, sunflower seeds, drink bottles, cell phones and car keys — a 19-inch, high-definition TV perched with a satellite converter box on a hastily constructed shelf in one corner.
As the Hillbillies batted in the bottom of the first inning, players were able to watch the puck drop in Vancouver.
Balcke's teammates arrived at the park variously incredulous, bemused and impressed with his act of technological derring-do, made possible by approximately 200 feet of extension cord run from the neighboring community hall and across the grass between the home-plate backstop and the bleachers.
"Is that hi-def?" Hillbillies catcher Ivan Hall asked. "Unreal."
Ironically, the Hillbillies found out about the Canucks' first goal of the night, a tying power-play score by Raffi Torres in the first period, after they vacated the dugout to take the field in the top of the second inning.
As they were going through warm-up throws, a cheer went up from a home across Hyde Creek Road from the field.
"Sounds like the Canucks scored," shortstop Ray Bono said dryly.
In the end, the Hillbillies and the Canucks suffered similar fates. While the Canucks dropped a 4-3 decision, forcing them to return to Nashville with a 3-2 series lead for game six of the series, the Hillbillies fell 5-2 to the Rangers in eight innings.
Winning pitcher Nick Russell, who came on in relief, also scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Rob Kenny in the top of the eighth. Arron Harper then closed out the scoring with a two-out, two-run double.
That followed a pitchers' duel between starters Ryan Rushton of the Hillbillies (0-1) and Harold Hosken of the Rangers (1-1) that left the game tied 2-2 after the regulation seven innings. Ivan Hall hammered a wood-bat home run to give the Hillbillies a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning, but the Rangers evened the score with an unearned run in the sixth.
This may not be the last time Balcke's satellite dish adorns the dugout. The Hillbillies are scheduled for a pair of games this weekend, Saturday at 6 p.m. against Port Hardy and Sunday at 5 p.m. against Port McNeill. The Canucks closed out Nashville in Game 6 Monday and are likely to be playing in the Western Conference finals on one of those days.
North Vancouver Island Baseball League
Through May 11
Team W L Pct GB
Port Hardy 1 0 1.000 —
Port McNeill 1 1 .500 .5
Hyde Creek 0 1 .000 1
Saturday, May 7
Port McNeill 5, Hyde Creek 2
Rangers 100 001 03—5 6 2
Hillbillies 001 100 00—2 7 1
Hosken, Russell (5) and Le Boeuf; Rushton, Carmen (5) and Hall. WP — Russell (1-0). LP — Carmen (0-1). HR — Hillbillies, Hall (1). 2b — Rangers, Johnson, Harper; Hillbillies, Hall. SF — Rangers, Kenny. Umpire: Dumonceaux. A — 8.
Saturday, May 14
Port Hardy vs. Hyde Creek, 6 p.m.
Sunday, May 15
Hyde Creek vs. Port McNeill, 5 p.m.
All games at Hyde Creek Ballpark