A surge in soft­ball

Bay Roberts fields alive with ac­tiv­ity this sum­mer


Soft­ball in the Town of Bay Roberts is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a surge in pop­u­lar­ity, the likes of which hasn’t been wit­nessed in re­cent mem­ory.

There’s such a de­mand for mens’, ladies’ and mi­nor ball that the town’s di­rec­tor of re­cre­ation wouldn’t be sur­prised if a new fa­cil­ity is re­quired some­time in the fu­ture.

“ This is the first year we’ve felt de­mand of this mag­ni­tude,” says Ian Flynn, who’s been with the town in var­i­ous ca­pac­i­ties for more than a decade.

Wait­ing list

The mens’ 19-and-over league started with four teams in 2006. It’s now grown to seven teams, and there’s ac­tion three nights-a-week.

The ladies’ league, in just its sec­ond sea­son, has grown to five teams with 75 play­ers hav­ing reg­is­tered. Ten oth­ers are on a wait­ing list.

“There’s an ex­treme amount of in­ter­est,” says Danita Cros­bie. Cros­bie and­Me­lanie Akerman are run­ning the league.

Both the mens’ and ladies’ league play at the Wil­bur Sparkes Re­cre­ation Com­plex. Field avail­abil­ity is the only fac­tor pre­vent­ing league ex­pan­sion, Cros­bie ex­plains.

Mi­nor soft­ball has also ex­pe­ri­enced what Flynn de­scribes as an “ex­plo­sion in num­bers,” with some 300 young ath­letes be­tween the ageas of five and 16 tak­ing part.

The mi­nor pro­gram is co-or­di­nated by San­dra Parsons, and ac­tion takes place pri­mar­ily on the Com­mu­nity Gar­dens field

No fees are charged the mi­nor pro­gram, so reg­is­tra­tion fees are chan­nelled into the as­so­ci­a­tion.

“It’s good to see the fa­cil­i­ties be­ing used,” Flynn says. He high­lights “the push of the vol­un­teers that get these pro­grams go­ing.”

Busy sched­ule

Mens’ teams play 24 reg­u­lar sea­son games, plus play­offs. The town also hosts three area tour­na­ments, as well as a qual­i­fy­ing tour­na­ment for teams head­ing to the provin­cials.

The an­nual sum­mer Klondyke Days fea­tures a su­per sports week­end, high­light­ing be­tween 12 and 14 teams from across the prov­ince.

A “ fall brawl” is the fi­nal tour­na­ment of the year, Flynn ex­plains.

“It just goes to show the re­spect and pop­u­lar­ity soft­ball has, and the (rep­u­ta­tion) the Town of Bay Roberts has de­vel­oped over the last six years in terms of host­ing these tour­na­ments,” Flynn says.

Eco­nom­i­cal sport

He at­tributes the re­newed in­ter­est in ball to noth­ing more pro­found than “peo­ple look­ing for some­thing to do, at an affordable cost.”

He notes that $100 or so gets a player through the en­tire sum­mer, whereas “ you’re look­ing at $100 just to go for a round of golf at cer­tain places.”

Nor can the role of ca­ma­raderie be dis­counted. “It’s a cou­ple of nights out; a so­cial thing,” he says.

Both the mens’ and ladies’ league play at the Wil­bur Sparkes Re­cre­ation Com­plex.

Cros­bie says the ad­van­tage of be­ing able to play un­der the field lights is an­other fac­tor in the sport’s growth. And, she adds, “there’s an ex­tremely high cal­i­bre of ball that’s be­ing played there.”

Akerman main­tains a Face­book page de­voted to the ladies’ league.

Cros­bie and Akerman ex­pect to con­tinue run­ning the ladies’ league “ be­cause we haven’t had as much as one com­plaint,” Cros­bie says.

Rental fees from the adult leagues are “put back into the field,” Flynn notes.

The re­cre­ation di­rec­tor en­vi­sions an ex­pan­sion to the re­cre­ation com­plex, or the erec­tion of a new fa­cil­ity, be­cause of the re­quire­ments for host­ing pro­vin­cial tour­na­ments. A min­i­mum field length of 275 feet is re­quired, whereas the present field is 235 feet.

He notes, though, that any such think­ing is “in the very early stages right now.”

Photo by Terry Roberts/The Com­pass

Casey Tet­ford (right) and her brother Caden of Shearstown are among the roughly 300 young peo­ple tak­ing part in the mi­nor soft­ball pro­gram in Bay Roberts this year. They were at the field with their par­ents, Claude and Jen­nifer, on June 1 to take in some prac­tice. It was also Casey’s fifth birth­day.

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