Hanging up the glove after 52 years

Len Banner, the now-former coach/manager of Sooke's Loggers fastpitch team, is retiring.

Len Banner, the now-former coach/manager of Sooke’s Logger’s fast pitch team, is hanging up his glove. That’s right, after 52 years of either playing or coaching ball games, Banner is calling it a day.

Banner grew up on the field. Although his father died when he was six, he was a huge influence on Banner and his five siblings.

“I remember when we used to go out into the park,” reflects Banner, who grew up in Sooke. “We grew up in the park. There’s six of us, three sisters and two brothers. We all played ball; we were always at the park. My dad umpired…. from May until September, that’s what we did.” His dad and the Banner family — including his Uncle Ed — were very influential in nurturing the long-standing passion Banner has for the sport.

His big love for the sport comes from “being part of the team,” he said. Winning helped too. Between the ages of five and 17, the team he was on won eight championships. “It was a really good time,” he reflects, “and we were fairly successful.”

The camaraderie that he enjoyed in his younger days continues at the adult level. “The fastpitch community is a great community. We all know each other…. It’s a great community.”

At 28, Banner stopped playing the game and turned to coaching, working with his own sons in Triangle Little League. For the most part, he’s been coaching since.

When asked what he loves most about the game, without hesitation Banner answers. “It’s a fast game,” he says, “We can play a game in under two hours. A lot of weekends, even when I was playing, we’d play a double-header in four hours.”

Banner has some concerns about the fading of interest in fastpitch. The number of sports that youth can play in has expanded, says Banner, referencing soccer, lacrosse and football. “And it’s really hurt ball,” he finds.

Most recently, Banner has been involved as the coach/manager of the Sooke Loggers, who played this year (and last) at a world-class level.

When asked why the Loggers have done as well as they have this year, Banner replies that it takes a big commitment, “You have to get the right, committed guys. It’s a big commitment. These guys take every Friday off and every Monday off when we go to a tournament.”

Indeed, they have travelled a lot this year., gracing Kelowna, Vancouver, Fargo (North Dakota), San Diego (California), and Quad Cities (Iowa/Illinois). Saskatoon was on their list, but that got cancelled. Their adventures are quietly sponsored by Verity Developments and individual fund-raising efforts by the entire team.

In spite of the disappointment of ending the ISC tournament sooner than expected, Banner is confident in the Logger’s future.

As for his own, it’s time to take a break. “I think it’s the travel that’s done me in,” he said. “Every game we play is off the Island.”

He is also a grandfather to three children, and he’s ready for the next phase in life.

“Maybe I’ll be coaching in a few more years,” he laughs. So who knows: we may well see him on the field yet!