Eastern Ontario Fastball Blog

A blog dedicated to news about the Greater Ottawa Fastball League and other happenings in the world of fastball / fastpitch softball in eastern Ontario and western Quebec, with occasional stories featuring Mrs Fitzroy Fastball, Fitzroy Fastball Junior and the Caveman. If you have info to send on, send me an email at fastball[at]fitzroyharbour.com. Follow @fitzroyfastball on Twitter.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

GOFL Player Interview - Mike Branchaud

Next up in our series of GOFL interviews is Mike "Pudge" Branchaud of the Barrhaven Broadway Blues. I figure Pudge would have lots of good stories and when you read below he clearly didn't disappoint!

Mike "Pudge" Branchaud, #49, Barrhaven Broadway Blues

Q: Where did you play your minor/junior softball?

I grew up in Cornwall, Ontario and played both minor baseball and minor softball there. I actually pitched both until I was 16. It was getting pretty tough on the arm so my Dad made me choose one and I picked softball. I still played baseball but mostly as a first or third baseman. As a 17 year old, I played some senior baseball with Cornwall as they played in a league in upper NY State. It was some pretty high level ball with a few players moving on to the Major Leagues and some playing college. I also played Junior Softball for the Stittsville 56ers for 3 years when the Junior Age was U19. We always had competitive teams out of Stittsville with many great players, some of whom still play today.

Q: You must have some interesting stories from playing with Eddie Feigner and the King and his Court. What's the most interesting thing that ever happened playing with those guys?

Wow, spending 5 years with the King and His Court was a huge opportunity for me. There were so many interesting things that happened when I was playing full time. I saw many great facilities, meeting outstanding people, playing tons of golf, all playing the game I loved and getting paid to do it.

Some of the neat places I played in were Guantamano Bay, Cuba, Vero Beach (Dodgertown) and many minor league stadiums, Key West, Los Angeles, many prisons, the list could go on.

Some of the stories are better suited for post game tailgating but perhaps one of the most interesting thing that happened was a unique experience in Traverse City, Michigan. We had a game there in support of their Cherry festival during a Sunday afternoon in July. It was a fairly decent crowd of about a 1000 people and we had just started the game and were into our “show” when Eddie stopped the game in the bottom of the first. He was pitching and just walked off the mound to the microphone.

I looked at the other guys and they just shrugged their shoulders. Then Eddie introduced an old friend of his and his wife, Gordie and Colleen Howe. He then escorted them to our bench. My girlfriend (now my wife) was on our bench and shook both their hands and started talking to Gordie’s wife Colleen. So, I am on the field thinking, I get to meet Gordie and I have to get autographs for some friends. Sure enough the ½ inning ends and Eddie introduces us to the Howes. On a side note, my wife asked me if he was a hockey player. It was close but I still kept her around.

We ended up having dinner with Gordie at his restaurant a couple of times in my travels, and to this day, his signed hockey stick is hanging in my basement.

Q: What is your fondest memory in fastball?

So many to chose from, playing over 125 games a year from 1994-1998 with the King and His Court, being named to the ISC all World Team in 1999, numerous tournament Championships but basically just being able to take the field year after year. Perhaps the fondest memory of softball is the opportunity this game created for me to establish friendships all across the World.

Q: What is your favourite softball park to play in?

I was spoiled to play in many great facilities, college level parks, minor league baseball complexes but perhaps my favourite is still King George Park in Cornwall. There were so many great players in Cornwall when I was growing up and I started out as being bat boy eventually earning my way on a team. In a selfish way, I especially like the short right field fence (212 feet) and the big clubhouse 10 feet past the fence. There were many a homeruns hit over and off the roof of that clubhouse.

Fitzroy fastball note: I thought Fitzroy Harbour was the only park with a 212 foot right field fence!

Q: Where is the best tournament you have ever played in?

My favourite tournament is still in Ausable Forks, NY. I married a girl from Peru, NY and have family in the area. They have a passion for softball and sports there and the atmosphere surrounding the diamond is excellent. The best tournament I played in was the ISC World Championships in 1999 (Sioux City, IA) and 2000 (St. Josephs, MI). Our NY Spirit team finished 7th both years and that was when the Championship was a double elimination with 30 plus teams.

Q: Who is the toughest pitcher you have ever faced in fastball?

I have seen so many great ones but I think being a left hand batter facing lefty Mike Piechnik back in the early 1990’s was probably the time I felt the most over matched. He had nasty stuff that day. But Zack, Algar, Underwood were all guys that I faced and were very tough. Undy was especially tough being lefty versus lefty again.

Q: How do you occupy your 'off-season'?

My off season is currently occupied by coaching minor hockey. I am the Head Coach of a Novice B team in Metcalfe and also a co-coach of an Initiation Program team also in Metcalfe. With 2 boys aged 5 and 7, there is not much down time. With my position as manager of Canadian Championships and Domestic Services with Softball Canada, I also have the opportunity to work in our game year round.

Q: You were recently inducted into the Cornwall Sports Hall of Fame alongside your father. Tell us a bit about that honour.

As mentioned before, there were so many outstanding ball players in the Cornwall area. They had a great league there when I was just a kid called the North End Fastball League. It was basically a Senior League with players from Ottawa, Hull, Montreal and the USA. As the years progressed, Cornwall still developed some outstanding teams in the Intermediate circuit with some players travelling to play Senior. To be recognized in the sport that I love to play was a great honour especially when I see who else is in the Hall of Fame. My dad was a fierce competitor who could hit any pitcher for singles and doubles. He was a high average guy in any league he played in. Just knowing that our pictures are forever side by side in the Cornwall Sports Hall of Fame, will be something I will cherish.

Q: If you could change one thing about the GOFL or fastball in general, what would it be?

As an employee of Softball Canada I work on improving this every day. We have taken great strides the last several years in targeting and developing programs for the youth. Our Learn to Play numbers continue to grow and we have recently introduced a pitching program called Can-Pitch. We have recognized that pitching is essentially the backbone of this game and there is an urgent need to develop pitchers. The Can-Pitch program does this and also teaches coaches the basics so that they can teach the kids.

Q: What is one thing that most guys in the GOFL probably don't know about you?

That I am a very superstitious guy when it comes to sports. Whether it is softball, hockey or whatever game I am playing, there are things you do the same. In softball, I do not step on any lines, I do not go into the circle unless I am pitching, left sock, right sock, left cleat, then right, to name a few. If I ever got into a groove, hitting or pitching, it was always the same routine.

Thanks to Pudge for sharing his many experiences with us! Great stuff. Remember, watch your inbox for an email titled "Interview" - you could be next.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Game Report November 22

As mentioned earlier on the blog, the classic Novice B showdown was played on November 22 at Kinburn between the West Carleton Warriors and Carleton Place Kings.

Regrettably the goons from Carleton Place, led by their enforcer Edgy Junior, came away with a 2-0 victory over Fitzroy Junior's team. Fitzroy Junior remains scoreless on the season. See below for some action photos from the game.

CP Kings head hatchetman, Edgy Junior.

High-flying WC Warriors winger, Fitzroy Junior.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

GOFL Player Interview - Drew Hathway

During the off season I am planning on doing some email interviews with various players in the Greater Ottawa Fastball League. First up, Drew Hathway answers some questions posed by Fitzroy Fastball.

Drew Hathway, #12, Pitcher for the Quyon COMBAT Flyers

Q: Where did you play your minor/junior softball?

I grew up playing ball in Brampton, ON in the Bramalea Boys Minor Softball Association until there weren't enouh guys to field a team at the Midget level. I finished up my midget years playing at the famous Dieppe Park that fielded some of the best teams in the game. Namely the Toronto Gators. I didn't play my first year Junior so I could play mens ball at Dieppe. A season with the Scarborough Wolverines then 2 with the Waterloo Jr. Twins ended my junior years.

Q: Who is the most memorable coach or teammate from your career,and why?

My most memorable coach would be Barry Musselman when I was playing for the Twins. Barry taught me to "keep the ball out of the power alleys and in the ball park. That's how you win ball games." At tournaments we would sit and watch games and I'd make a comment about a player I thought was good and he'd say "what makes him good? You have to have the attitude that no matter who is at the plate, you only need to look past him and into the catchers mitt and say 'you won't beat me! You won't be better than me! My best is better than your best; today and every other day!'" To this day I still find myself saying that on the mound.

Q: What is your fastball nickname, and how did you get it?

Peas! I was playing in Dieppe and was the youngest player in the league. I was on the Toronto Indians with Tom Berube and Norm Estabrooks. I was full a piss and vinegar when I was on the mound and probably threw too hard but Bill "Rookie" Fairney yelled from right field, "throw PEAS kid." Ever since then Rookie, who is a very good friend will phone me up from time to time and the first words out of his mouth are "What's up Peas!"

Q: What is your fondest memory in fastball?

Going back to my mite rep days and playing on back to back teams that went 88 wins and 0 losses! Being 9 and 10 years old and not losing a game in 2 years was pretty exceptional!

Q: What is your favourite softball park to play in?

Circle Tap in Denmark, WI. They love their ball there and the bar patio is steps from the first base dugout! Players and spectators sit on the patio and watch and cheer and jeer but the jeers are all in good fun! I highly suggest that if you can, try to get there and play in a tournament.

Q: Where is the best tournament you have ever played in?

Any time you go to the World tournament! No matter where its held, its always better than the year before! Maybe because you don't remember it as much but the ISC is always trying to improve it. The pride the grounds crew have there is awesome as well. They have something to prove every year to be remembered as the best ones to host it!

Q: Who is the toughest hitter you have ever faced in fastball?

Mark Sorenson in New Zealand. Check out his career stats and you'll understand why he's the toughest.

Q: How do you occupy your 'off-season'?

Every year has been different but this offseason will be more work than play. Being the league finalists 2 years in a row is ok, but who doesn't want to win the whole thing?!? I want to come out next season in the best shape I've been in years. Hopefully I will be able to contribute to the Flyers more than I have in the past 3 seasons and help win the Championship.

Q: If you could change one thing about the GOFL or fastball in general, what would it be?

I think the Kiwis have it right and I would like to bring their idea over to Canada. They have instructors that go around to schools teaching kids from grades 1 to 12 the basics of softball as their full time job. I have no doubt that this generates more interest in the game and has helped them produce great players and teams across the board.

Q: What is one thing that most guys in the GOFL probably don't know about you?

That's hard to say! I talk so much that somewhere along the way I have probably told so many stories that the guys are sick of hearing my voice. I suppose the one thing they don't know is that I am very passionate about cooking for my family.

Thanks to Drew for participating and being the first one - if you see an email marked "Interview" in your email inbox, don't delete it!

Monday, November 08, 2010

"Yes, that's where this tattoo comes from"

Caveman random question of the day, asked just before bed tonight: "Daddy, have you ever been to jail?"

BONUS Fitzroy Fastball Junior Novice hockey update: Season is going well as the West Carleton Novice B1 Warriors remain undefeated with a 4-0 record. Big game coming up in two weeks as Fitzroy Junior will face Edgy Junior of the Carleton Place team in a showdown in Kinburn on November 22. Fitzroy Junior, a rugged right winger, continues to lead the team in AGAGD ("Almost got a goal, Daddy"). He remains scoreless in his hockey career to date.

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Fall Ball wraps up

from Ivan Taylor

After a two week delay because of rain and snow, the Ottawa Fall Ball Season finally wrapped up Sunday.

The Black Team won the semi-final game at 1 pm led by Will Lowe's pitching and Derek Martin's two run home run. They beat the Green Team 5-3 and Jeff Barber took the loss.

Then in finals the first place Blue Team led by the pitching of Derick Bulley beat the Black Team 8-1. Chad Hargrove and Derick Bulley each hit two run homeruns. Gord Flannery took the loss for the Black Team.

This was the first time in known history that Fastball was played in Ottawa in November. Let's hear it for Global Warming!


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

ISC World Tournament to be shortened in 2011

Message from the ISC

The International Softball Congress and its 2011 host, Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, are announcing that the 2011 ISC World Tournament will be shortened to seven days.

“The change follows the results of a survey conducted after the 2010 event in which teams overwhelmingly requested we shorten the tournament,” said ISC Executive Director Ken Hackmeister.

For 44 of the 48 teams, the tournament will start on Sunday August 14 and run through Saturday August 20 with all games scheduled to be played on six diamonds at the Green Valley Complex in Moline, Illinois.

Four teams will be asked to play in two evening games on Saturday August 13 with action continuing on Sunday afternoon following the Hall of Fame induction breakfast on Sunday morning.

Opening Ceremonies will be held on Sunday at 6:00 pm.

At this time, we anticipate holding two registration sessions and manager meetings, the first on Saturday afternoon for teams playing that night or prior to opening ceremonies and the second early Sunday afternoon for the remaining teams.

The tournament format will be the same as used in Midland this year; 48-teams playing in an EGC format with the first 24-teams eliminated going into a 24-team single elimination for the ISC II Championship. The ISC II portion will be played Tuesday thru Thursday.

We recently had our annual checklist meeting in Quad Cities and were very impressed with the improvements Quad Cities will be implementing to better serve teams, umpires and fans.

ISC Regional Vice Presidents have now been given their region’s berth allocations so they can begin awarding Qualifying events in their respective regions.

More specifics about the 2011 ISC World Tournament will be distributed by spring 2011.