The action was all on the diamond, but for many participants and onlookers at the 2017 Gord Closson Old Timers Fall Classic softball tournament last weekend, their thoughts were elsewhere.
Profits from the tournament are divided between a variety of deserving recipients, and this year’s proceeds were split between the Next Step Outreach Society, which provides programs for special needs young adults in Duncan, and the family of Mike Elliot, who died of cancer in April, leaving behind his wife, Beth, and five-year-old son, William.
Mike’s dad, Doug Elliot, also got involved in the tournament, umpiring three or four games over the weekend. The favourite umpire award, however, went to Larry Cross, who was officiating the game in Courtenay on Aug. 19 in which 32-year-old Chris Godfrey was struck by a thrown ball while running the bases, leading to his death on Aug. 30. Cross donated his pay for umpiring 13 games over the weekend — nearly $600 — to the Godfrey family.
Among the tournament MVPs was Randy Morgan, who travelled from Quesnel to play with the Native Sons team. Morgan had lost his son, Erickson Morgan, in a bike accident just two months earlier, and gave an emotional speech at the tournament reminding everyone to get home safely.
Other team MVPs included Tod LeSergent of Gord’s Geriatrics, Scott Harrison of Belfor Restorations, Don Cheetah of the Beers, Cory Vey of the Rangers, Trevor Vanderbyl of Dogpatch, Brent (Chief) Edwards of Lantzville, Tyler Parks of the Texas Leaguers, Shane McLaughlin of Baker Supply, Darcy Walushka of the Braves, Trevor Gicas of the Bangers, and Matt Underwood of the Hammers.
The team participation award went to the Bangers, Tanner McQuarrie received the Ron Dill Award for most inspirational person, Dom Mansueti was named the Wilky Weekend Warrior, and Shawna Gicas, who umpired 10 games, took home the Chris Dame Award for most positive person.
On the diamond, the Braves beat the Hammers in the open division final, and Lantzville beat the Texas Leaguers in the masters final. Gord’s Geriatrics hoisted the big trophy for finishing last.
Organizers received many donations over the weekend, including $200 from the Shriners, who supplied food at the tournament.
A huge, surprise contribution came from Don Wallace, the winner of the Mr. O’Keefe Memorial Award as most sportsmanlike player, who handed over a cheque for $1,000 from his own pocket for the Elliot family. Wallace’s grandson, Mason, was a recipient of tournament proceeds last year after battling severe medical complications throughout the first months of his life. The Wallace family travelled from Campbell River to attend the tournament, expressing their gratitude and showing how far Mason has come in the last year.
“He’s a big, blue-eyed kid now,” beamed Joe DiLalla, one of the tournament organizers. “He was giving me high-fives during the speech.”