Last weekend, Smithers was host to the BC 19 and under boy’s provincial softball championships. The Elks Park ball fields were busy with 21 teams vying for supremacy in three different age classes.
In the under 12 A class, Clearwater were the winners over Houston. Williams Lake picked up the bronze position.
The under 12 C class had Hazelton winning over Smithers. Barriere were in third.
Terrace were the winners in the U14 category over 100 Mile House. Prince Rupert took third.
The hotly contested under 16 division was dominated by Barriere over Terrace with Fleetwood (out of Surrey) in the bronze slot.
The 16 and under class was probably the most competitive with two of the six teams in the division tied for the lead going into the playoffs. Both teams, Barriere and Terrace, will also be representing their regions at the upcoming BC Summer Games.
According to tournament organiser Scott Groves, most of the games have been close. There were 21 teams from around the province with 16 of those being from the North.
Groves said that there is a lot of softball being played in the North with “probably more players in the North than the rest if the province combined.”
“The North also has a lot of girls who combine with the boys for the majority of the season. A lot of the smaller communities don’t have girls teams so the girls play on the boys teams,” he said.
For example one young girl was playing on a successful team from Terrace. Brenna Menz, who plays shortstop and second base, said she loved playing on the boys team.
“They are like brothers to me,” she said.
She will also play on the Northwest team for the BC summer games team.
Groves felt that another positive point was the was that there are a lot of Indigenous players.
“Fastball is a big sport with a lot of the First Nations communities right across the country. It’s an extremely popular sport with all of the First Nations groups. If it wasn’t for a lot of the First Nations players playing in a lot of the small communities in the North, the numbers would not be what they are,” he said.
“In the under 16, both of the top teams are going to the Western Canadian’s in a couple of weeks and the bulk of those players are committed to going to the BC Games in a couple of weeks,” he said.
According to Groves, small number of baseball versus softball teams in the North may have something to do with lack of parks which are designed specifically for baseball.
“It’s a different park. And baseball in the North has been a slow sport. They’ve been trying to it going in Terrace but they’re struggling. In this part of the province we probably have more boys registered than the rest of the province combined,” he said.
Groves was also pleased with the support that the tournament had received from the community at large for the weekend.
One example of that support was the exhibition game that was played for the players in the 19 and under age bracket. There were not enough teams to provide sufficient competition, so local players played against them to give them some experience. The game was close with the under 19s holding sway in the end.
Teams went into a double knockout format for the playoff round (they had to lose twice to be out).
Groves’ contention of the strength of the sport in the Northwest was apparent with seven of the teams in the playoff round from that region.