When talk of a senior men’s fastball league returning to Sooke first hit the airwaves, some were skeptical, especially considering the sport’s long hiatus in town — but the league’s success this year is well-heard from the stands: it’s back and it’s here to stay.
Four teams: the Compass Hustlers, Bob’s Auto Repair Pirates, the Hammers and the Browns came together earlier this spring to form the new Sooke Men’s Fastball League, a sport Sooke has been without for 20 years. The teams have been facing off since, playing Tuesdays and Thursdays evenings at 6:30 p.m. at Art Morris Park.
“It’s actually turned out better than we expected,” said Andrew Medwedrich, team manager for the Browns and one of the spearhead organizers behind the new league.
“There’s talk about possibly a masters team of older guys coming in. There’s also been a lot of help with the ball, like the Bantam team doing 50/50 raffles all-year long to help raise money, or the Sooke Lions club running concession, which [its] done an awesome job with.”
Medwedrich said he and the other team managers were more optimistic than confident when the sport was first rejuvenated in Sooke, but added that it was well worth the shot.
“It seems that from top to bottom everyone’s pretty happy with the way things have gone,” he said.
“We were hoping that it would fly with the fans, but Sooke’s pretty good for fast pitch, the fans like coming and watching, and we’ll get big crowds, we’ll get small crowds, but for the most part it’s seems it will be just fine as long as we keep on top of it.”
He said that given the league’s success, he sees it going into a second year, with most players already signed up to return to their respective teams.
Still, that doesn’t mean the league isn’t looking for new players – Medwedrich noted that unlike this year, which was its kick-off year, next year the league will be more open, especially since many have seen the games already in action.
“It was tough this year because we had no product yet to show someone,” he said. “Now that people have seen the game, they feel that they can play and want to try it.”
Medwedrich added that pitchers in particular are in high demand.
“Pitching is pretty tough, because without a pitcher it’s hard to make those new teams. Any pitchers who want to play, come on down,” he said.
Another challenge was for rookie players just starting out, especially on the level that the men’s fastball league plays at.
“They’re learning how to do a whole new thing, but at the same time, they’ve definitely adjusted to a different sport, and everyone seems to be in pretty good spirits,” he said.
For next year, he said he’d like to pick up more games, but that will depend on players and the format that they’ll be working with.
Overall though, Medwedrich pointed out that the Sooke community has been very integral for the league’s return, and feels pretty good about next year, especially since there are lots of fastball fans around.
“We’re lucky to have a good community that comes and helps out, it makes things a lot easier for everyone,” he said.
And like every major sport league, there are playoffs, along with a good year-end showdown; all of which are due to take place in the coming weeks.
“We’re going to have a playoff game on Aug. 25, that’s the first-place team which ended up being the Compass Hustlers, they won our league,” Medwedrich said.
He noted that the Hustlers will take on the league’s fourth-place team in their first game, which will be versus the Pirates.
On Aug. 27, the second place team will also play the third-place team, though Medwedrich says that could still change depending on how the final two games go, since the standings are so close. But they’ll play each other no matter what, he said.
That same week, on Aug. 29, there will be four games, and that will just be back-to-back starting at 10 a.m. with the final playoff game happening around 3 p.m.
Until the year-end playoffs at the end of August though, you can still catch the guys playing their regular games every Tuesday and Thursday night, 6:30 p.m. at Art Morris Park.
For more info and updates on the Sooke Men’s Fastball league, be sure to check out their Facebook page.