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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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Memories of Elkland, 2011

A trip to the Elkland Labour Day Durk Sherman Classic wouldn't be complete without the annual tradition, the "Memories of Elkland" post. Lots of guys tell me they enjoy this posting every year and several have asked "when is it coming?" No pressure, guys.

Anyway, here it is, all the fastball fun at Elkland. As always, where necessary names have been omitted to protect the guilty and some stories edited out all together. (There was a great Elkland story being told at the beer garden in Quyon last weekend, but no way that one makes the blog, a tad too raunchy.)

The competition: This year's tournament once again had 15 teams, same as last year. A few teams gone (bye bye RF Linemen) a few new teams added (hello NY Bombers). There were four, count 'em FOUR, GOFL teams attending, meaning over half the league's players were in Elkland for the weekend. This prompted one guy to remark that the Saturday night at the Moose could have been renamed the "GOFL Banquet". Overall I think the competition was better than some previous years. Pitchers there included Jeremy Manley, Bryan Newton, Sean Kelly, Bill Hillhouse, Steve Price, Kyle Linton, and Caleb Keeshig.

The big change this year was three game guarantee format instead of the traditional double knockout. An interesting idea that seemed to go over OK. Unfortunately things were rained out on the Monday with six teams remaining. From what I heard, the prize money was allocated fairly as could be given the circumstances.

Three of the teams remaining were from the GOFL, so a good showing - except for WC Electric. But as one Electric player put it "It's hard to party like a rock star and do well in the two 10am games." True, dat.

The hosts: Billy & Grant Sherman and the guys in Elkland do things right. Great guys that love fastball, pints, and go out of their way to be good hosts. Simply put, good people that would fit in the Ottawa Valley except for the funny way they talk.

The ESA guys work hard, but still find time to have fun in the process. Word is that ESA team might make the trek to the Gil Read Tournament next year to acknowledge the GOFL contingent that makes the trip every year down their way. It would be great to see their crew up here in July 2012.

The venue: I've said every year and I'll blog it again - the venue is most excellent for fastpitch softball. The old time feel of the place is hard to duplicate. The covered stands, the advertising boards in the outfield, the concessions - really great spot that is unique for fastball.

The fields were in good shape. The Elkland Softball Association complex uses tarps to help keep the infields in tiptop form over night. Here's a tip - help the ESA boys put the tarps on at the end of the night and you get free beer! 10 guys work for 10 minutes for 20 pints? Sign us up.

And the ESA gang certainly have embraced the spirit of continuous improvement. Last year it was the memorabilia room. This year, they put up a nice new fence to keep good neighbourly relations. (Sorry about the guys climbing over it on Friday night after the Moose, Bill - it seemed like a good idea at the time.)

As well, there was a new "luxury box" built over third base dugout on the main diamond which offered an excellent perspective to watch a game. There was a 'premium charge' to get in the box, but help with a few tarps and voila, you get a free seat in the luxury area. We watched the Sunday night match up between Kars and Knoxville in the box - a great game and a great spot to heckle. And heckle we did! However our heckling got a little quiet when Kars' pitcher Brad Porter took a one hopper off the face. Whoops. Looked like he was actually out for bit but eventually he seemed to be OK. He got up, Dave Tubman was catching and he says "Need a warm up Porter?", Brad says "no". Next thing you know, Porter chucks in a warm up pitch as hard as he can, much to Tubby's surprise! Anyway, he recovered quickly and started pitching as hard as anyone had seen in a long time to finish the inning and get Kars through to Monday.

Another great thing about the venue is the announcer on the main diamond: Ugo Barbano. He announces every game on Field 1 from start of the tourney to the finish. This guy takes his job seriously - I mean his Facebook profile has a photo of him in the Elkland announcer's booth! The place wouldn't be the same without his voice with that mix of whisky and Marlboros, announcing each batter. And he knows his players. First time West Carleton's #51 is at the plate, he's announced as "Mad Dog Murrrrrrrphy!" I run into Ugo at the Moose, he asks how Bud is doing in Newfoundland.

Thought experiment for those of you that have heard Ugo before: imagine his voice on your in-vehicle GPS - "Turn right in half a miiiiiile arrrgh". PERFECT.

The food: The chicken from the stadium "pit" was once again excellent and damn near worth the drive itself. Apparently in a good year, they sell over a 1000 chicken dinners on the weekend! (This year would have been fewer due to Monday's rainout.) Lots of hard work and MMMM good. The stadium also other fare like tasty sausages, the notorious nacho cheese, French fries, burgs and funnel cake.

I also made a discovery on the weekend. Say you are back in the evening from the stadium to the campsite after a few pints and your chicken lunch is long digested. You ask the lads anything to eat? Some guys have ordered the most excellent sheet from Pizza Barn and another accomodating dad of three guys on your team has fresh burgers off the grill. What to do? I'll tell you want to do - put that hamburger patty between the two square slices of pizza. Oh my that's good eating. Has anyone patented that yet?

Another food discovery was the Moose breakfast. Now I had heard of this before but never went. It's a breakfast... but not in the morning. You have finished your evening at the Moose, it's about 2:30am or so and you need a snack. Where do you go? Why, you go downstairs at the Moose to eat the special breakfast. Imagine, middle of the night, huge line up of drunken ball players and 15 local church ladies serving breakfast. Honestly, it was so good the next day I wasn't sure if I had dreamed it all or not. (I hadn't.) "You want biscuits and gravy with that, hon?" "Why yes, yes I do.....even though I have no idea what that is." It looks like a tea biscuit with mushroom soup with bits of sausage in it; so a little rude looking, but man it hits the spot after 14 Yeunglings.

Jesse is all grown up: Loyal blog readers will know that WC Electric has had the same bat boy since we first went down there in 2007. Sure enough Jesse met us there again this year and has now graduated from bat boy to roster player, even though he didn't actually get in to play. Apparently despite his plans in 2010 they wouldn't let him in the US Army (apparently they don't let EVERYONE in!) so he was back at Elkland High, trying to finish things off. Apparently this year's West Carleton Electric team picture with Jesse will be in his Grade 12 yearbook as we posed for "senior photos" with him.

Accomodations: I know some of the other local teams stayed in Corning, NY and thought that was a pretty good spot. Despite not being a camping-type person, we stayed once again in the ESA campground at the ballpark. Nice spot, close to everything and free. We all got there early to set up the campers and tents, and claimed a good spot for our group.

With help from Jesse, we had our fire pit all set up and ready to go. One of the guys who works in a home improvement store thoughtfully brought along some cuttings from the lumber yard - some nice two foot lengths of 1 x 6. Unfortunately some guys thought that karate was in order - note to self, DO NOT attempt to use your forehead to break through pine boards no matter how good an idea it seems at the time to split kindling in that manner.

Also interesting on Saturday morning was seeing one GOFLer from another team camped out under a light pole. Just lying on the ground, no tent, covered with an old ratty blanket and a nice layer of dew. Apparently he had been feuding the night before with a teammate (OK his brother) and was kicked out of the tent. Things appeared to be patched up the next day as they were spotted laughing together in the stands at the stadium.

The Moose: The Moose was again a great place to get the full Elkland experience on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. The drinks are still cheap, the music is still the same and faces look pretty familiar most nights, but a great spot to catch up with old friends, make new ones and generally have a good time. And of course for those so inclined there were some local lovelies looking to meet visiting ballplayers (refer to story mentioned in introduction which will not be blogged here).

On Saturday night, one WC player decided it would be a good idea to wear a red camping headlight into the Moose. Slide it down over one eye, add in the "Dadadada do, dadada do" theme music and there you go - the Moose Terminator. People were stopping him in the stands on Sunday asking him "Are you that Terminator guy from the Moose?"

Our team only suffered one injury on the weekend, and perhaps not surprisingly it didn't happen on the field, it was of course, post-Moose. Great night at the bar, you don't want it to end, sitting around with the guys, bonfire is going, a few tunes on the boom box, a couple of drinks to finish things off. And what's a guy want to do? Well, you gotta dance right? How getting up and doing a Cooler Dance? BAD IDEA. Big time wipe out, scraped down the leg, swollen ankle. Ladies and gentlemen, if we have learned anything from that weekend, it's that Cooler Dancing is dangerous.

The conclusion: Good time as always in Elkland, well organized tournament in a mint venue, good competition and great spirit. Once again I'm counting the days until next year, which will be the 60th anniversary of the tournament, and based on reports of the 50th anniversary, the folks in Elkland will do it up right. Put it on your calendar now, August 31 - September 3, 2012.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't wait for next year. It's a great tournament weekend!

11:08 am  

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