The Province

Pritchett ends up in Vancouver

FAMILY FIRST: It used to be the place he’d try to get away from

- BY STEVE EWEN SPORTS REPORTER

Nat Bailey fan favourite Chris Pritchett is back living in Vancouver, in large part because Saffron Henderson waited for a second pitch.

Pritchett, the former first baseman who spent four seasons with the Triple A Vancouver Canadians, and Henderson, a Vancouver singer/voice actress, married in 2001. That was four years after their initial meeting, one that seemed to be a swing and a miss.

“A friend of mine, Sarah Johns, dragged me to a game and pointed at him and said he was so sweet and smart and funny,” recalls Henderson, the daughter of Bill Henderson, frontman of the rock band Chilliwack. “[Pritchett] was on the bench and he turned around right then and spat out a mouthful of a chewing tobacco and I went, ‘No, thank you.’ He doesn’t chew any more, by the way.”

Funny story, considerin­g how well it worked out eventually.

It’s a tale that their two sons, fiveyear-old Otis (named after “Otis Redding, Spunkmeyer Otis Cookies, Otis Elevators,” says Henderson) and one-year-old Casey (“That one is a little more obvious,” she says, laughing) are going to hear again and again.

It appears they’ll be doing that in Vancouver, too. Pritchett and his family moved back in 2006, three years after he retired and following a stint in his native California.

Vancouver’s a better spot for work for Henderson, 40, who has a lengthy resumé voicing characters for animated movies. Pritchett, 38, has coached some with the Single A Canadians and Terry McKaig’s UBC Thunderbir­ds. He recently landed a gig with Peter Twist Conditioni­ng and will provide colour commentary with the C’s this season.

Sticking in Vancouver for the long haul was the last thing on Pritchett’s mind when he first arrived at the Nat in 1995. Back then, he was counting down the at-bats, let alone the days, until being promoted to the bigs.

That’s Triple A. It’s that close. It’s one number short in bingo, with the never-ending belief that the next digit called will be yours.

When Pritchett kept getting sent back to Vancouver, he wondered if there was maybe something bigger at play. He doesn’t now.

“I was disappoint­ed every time I came here, because it wasn’t the goal,” says Pritchett. “By 1997, I was like, ‘At least maybe there’s a reason.’ And obviously that reason was the beautiful family I have now.

“I had never thought I’d live here. When we first met, we always talked about living in the States and we worked on her paperwork. We got her all squared away and we moved back.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t like Vancouver. It was probably that negative thing of getting sent down. I had always thought it was a beautiful city.”

Pritchett did get into 61 games in the majors, including 31 in 1998. In the end, he didn’t have enough power (averaged only nine homers per season over his 12 years in the minors) to keep a first-base job in the majors and he didn’t throw well enough to play another position.

He can’t deny that he misses playing.

The first couple of years of retirement his weight would still fluctuate, with him losing in the summer and gaining in the winter, even

though he wasn’t training the same.

There are still nights that he has dreams about playing, still nights that he’s hesitant to sleep on his right arm because it may be sore the next day.

“I’ll roll over on it and I’ll be like, ‘OK, I can do that . . . that’s OK . . . it doesn’t matter,’” says Pritchett. “It’s pretty weird.

“I was very passionate about the game. I can’t speak if that’s the way everybody is, but it’s inside me. I don’t think it will ever go away.”

There was a little more to it, too. Pritchett called it quits nine months after Otis was born, and he admits his family was part of why he gave up the chase for a big-league job.

Henderson’s take on the situation, as you might expect, is more animated.

“I think it was really hard for him to stop playing,” she says. “He was one of the guys who had to have the jersey ripped off his back, almost.

“I know he didn’t get to do everything that some of the guys he played with did. I know that must be hard. I’m also glad that I’m married to someone who didn’t have everything handed to him on a silver platter. There are guys who didn’t work as hard and still had success and they’re not prepared on a personal level. I’ve met lots of baseball players’ wives whose husbands don’t deal with things.”

steve.ewen @gmail.com

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 ?? COLIN PRICE — PROVINCE FILES ?? Canadians first baseman Chris Pritchett in 1996.
COLIN PRICE — PROVINCE FILES Canadians first baseman Chris Pritchett in 1996.
 ?? JON MURRAY — THE PROVINCE ?? Chris Pritchett and wife Saffron Henderson in March.
JON MURRAY — THE PROVINCE Chris Pritchett and wife Saffron Henderson in March.
 ?? RIC ERNST — PROVINCE FILES ?? Chris Pritchett hits a triple for the Vancouver Canadians back in 1997.
RIC ERNST — PROVINCE FILES Chris Pritchett hits a triple for the Vancouver Canadians back in 1997.

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