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, September 25, 2012

Memories of Elkland 2012

Sorry for the delay, this September has been ridiculously busy for several reasons. Anyway, based on a fuzzy recollection from earlier in the month and some notes scribled on a copy of the tournament bracket on the long drive home, here are the 2012 Memories of Elkland.

Loyal blog readers know that the Labour Day weekend in Elkland, PA is a special tournament to which many people look forward. This year, the 60th Annual Durk Sherman Labor Day Classic Tournament met expectations - and believe me, the expectations were high!

The 18-team fastball tournament was great, the weather was excellent, the crowds were good, the venue was in tip-top shape. It was quite simply a fantastic way to spend a weekend for those of us that love fastpitch softball.

I recall back in the spring of 2003, talking over pints after a game. One of my teammates at the time was telling me about the 50th Annual Labor Day tournament he attended the previous fall with another squad. It was his first time he had been in Elkland and he raved about the tournament, the fireworks, the Moose, how much fun he had and what a wonderful time it was. Being teammates and friends, we did what has been done since the invention of team sports - we mocked him mercilessly for his love of this mythical "Elkland" place in northern Pennsylvania.

Fast forward nine and half years later: I have been to Elkland six times and look forward to Labour Day more than Christmas, have some sure to be lifelong memories of the event, have made some great friends in Elkland and have told anyone who will listen (or reads the blog) that they gotta go. Funny how these things work sometimes, eh? Anyway, thanks Mike, were you ever right on this one. And if you are reading this, you gotta come next year.

On to some memories of 2012 in Elkland.

The tourney: With 18 teams registered, the numbers were up. The competition was a little more even this year as the talent seemed to be spread out a bit more over several teams. There were five teams from eastern Ontario (Kars, Carp, Orleans, West Carleton and Greenbush), one from New York and twelve from Pennsylvania. As per an earlier blog posting, South Lebanon TNT beat Kars Aces in the final.

The pitching: With the Canadian National Men's being held in New Brunswick at the same time as it usually is, given the distance, it did prevent some top Canadian arms from attending. There was also a tournament in the Czech Republic that lured away other chuckers. But this seemed to help somewhat with the 'parity' in the tournament and there was some top notch pitching with ISC, ISF, and Canadian Junior Nationals experience. Some of the pitchers that attended included: Josh Johnson, Steve Price, Brad Porter, Cory Alkerton, Doug Hoffman, Bill Sherman, Paul Algar, Ty McKinney, Gregg Garrity, Marty Humphries, Ty Sebastian, Jamie Blakely, Andy Barber, Jeff Barber, Cody Price, Craig Hollingsworth, Bill Hillhouse, Ryan Nichols, Sean Kelly, Doug Gillis, Darren Featherstone, Paul Ceppi, Neil Cooke, Kyle Crawford and of course......Lip (if you missed this post, be sure to check it out, it's one of my top Memories of Elkland 2012).

The venue: The Durk Sherman Complex was in top shape for the event, looking great. As usual, the staff worked hard selling pints, making food, keeping the place clean, working on the diamonds. The Thunderbellys players really pull together to get the fields in top shape for every game. And full points to the guys for making an improvement out in centre field! The 60th Anniversary fireworks on Saturday night were really great and added to the celebration, as did the special ceremony honouring the long time attendees. With its combination of "old time" feel yet excellent venue, it is tough to see any other softball-only complex measuring up to this place. There may be others but I haven't seen them. So given that, there's no wonder why PA Power and the NY Gremlins are combining to host a new Open tournament there next July. As well, in the future there could be an even bigger tournament there - more news on that hopefully in the next year or so.

The beer: Pints are still two bucks at the stadium. Hell of a deal. Added this year were one dollar jello vodka shots. A nice touch! As well, 16 ounce (473 ml in Canadian measurement) aluminum bottles of Bud Light were available for $2.50. We just got those in Canada. And the sad thing is they are about that same retail price in the Beer Store(For US American readers: the "Beer Store" is the only place in the province of Ontario where you can buy retail beer, except from a government run liquor store or direct from a brewery location. Contrary to popular belief, the Beer Store is actually owned by a couple of major breweries, not the government. It's kind of a sad, pathetic hold over from Prohibition and the place has a virtual monopoly and charges exorbitant prices. This is why many people in eastern Ontario buy their beer in Quebec, which has similar beer sales rules to the states and has much better prices, by Canadian standards anyway.)
The chicken: Good eating again this year with the legendary Elkland chicken. Approximately 900 chicken dinners sold! As the one of the hard-working guys in the chicken pit told me, "We sold so many of these there's gotta be people sh_tting feathers in Elkland this weekend!" Their method isn't sophisticated (see photo below) but the folks running the pit have it down to a science and cook it to perfection.
Photo credit: The Murph Dog

The accommodations: ´╗┐Many players choose to stay in motels in Corning, Painted Post, Elmira or other nearby towns across the state line in New York. But many people take advantage of the onsite camping which the Elkland boys generously provide free of charge. Water hook ups, electrical hook ups, right beside the ball park, walking distance to the Moose - what more could you want? There are not a lot of rules. In fact I think the Shermans really only ask one thing - if you gotta go, go in the "Port-a-Johns" that are provided. Do not whip it out in the open air at the campsite. There is a neighbour that doesn't particularly like the goings-on at the ballpark and he will take your photo as you pee, and he will call the cops, and they will issue you a citation (American for "provincial offence"). Once again, a couple of young guys got busted (not from my team, but from an eastern Ontario squad) and owe several hundred in fines to the State of Pennsylvania. The cops are actually pretty understanding (one of our guys who was caught going in the street got a free cop car ride back to the campsite and a mild lecture) but they have their hands tied when there is photographic evidence from a grouchy resident showing you holding your johnson and smiling at him. Guys, there is really only that one rule! Learn from previous mistakes of others and whizz in the provided go-hut.

The batboy: For the sixth consecutive year, our batboy Jesse made an appearance. Good old Jess made a three hour drive from his new home in downstate PA back to Elkland to help us out. Over the years we have fed him, given him a few refreshments (but of course never beer as he is not 21 yet) and given him life advice. He didn't follow all of it (his girlfriend is pregnant and he has some homemade tattoos) but hopefully we will see him next year again. Would hate not to have him around, it's a fun having him there.

The officiating: Overall, the umpiring was pretty decent.......except for one of our games. I won't go into the details, but let's just say I was displeased with the integrity of one of the umpires and leave it at that. I can also report that "Weird Al" the ump has a new hairstyle! Apparently his wife back in Williamsport got sick of the curly, frizzy mullett thing he had before, so he has a new look. Good call, dude.

Strange play of the weekend: There is always a strange play or two in Elkland. This year, we had a guy ground out 7-6-3 to end an inning. After he pulled a hard single down the third base line, looking like he was batting in a run with two out against "Lip", he ended up being the last out of the inning when during the twist in his hitting of the ball, his kneecap moved from its normal position to about three inches to the side of his knee. In a word, 'ouch'. As he was writhing in pain in the batter's box, the ball came in from deep left to the shortstop then thrown over to first base for the force out.

The Moose: Ah, the Moose Lodge # 746 of Elkland, PA. What a spot. The beer, the whisky, the music, the popcorn.....all contribute to the excellence as ball players took over the bar all weekend. I was there Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the atmosphere, while smoky, was once again great. My sources tell me Monday was also good times and featured some incidents of Kiwi nudity. There were several fastball heart-to-hearts going on discussing old times, the current season and tournament, and future plans for next year. Danielle the bartender, sorry for trying to kiss you on the cheek goodbye at 3am on Sunday night when you told me I had to leave. I meant it in as an expression of my appreciation for all the top quality Yuengling (yummy!) you served me all weekend. As well, thanks for not actually punching me as you threatened to do. My only disappointment was at the Moose breakfast (served from midnight until 2ish) on Saturday night. I had been looking forward to a serious feed of bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy, etc. but when I got down there, the nice old church ladies that make the food were out, except for toast. Oh man, I almost cried. Thanks though to the woman that took pity on me and made me a "toast sandwich". This PA delicacy consists of two pieces of buttered toast put together in a fake sandwich format. At that time of night and in that state I guess you take what you can get.

The shenanigans: One of the great things about the Elkland tournament is that there is lots of time between games to enjoy the atmosphere and have a few pints. However, every year this down time results in some 'brainstorming' on how to improve the Elkland experience. This year, sitting around the campfire Saturday night, the boys of West Carleton Electric looked at some of the kindling that was on hand, and found a few scraps of 2 x 6 pine that just happened to be about the size of a shoe. So what else would you do but get out the duct tape, and create a pair of wooden shoes and grey 'leg warmers' for the same guy that wore the Terminator Eye last year. As he walked over to the Moose he was making quite a racket (clack! clack!). A local resident screamed at him to keep it down or she would call the cops. ("9-1-1, what's the nature of your call?" "There is a guy with wooden shoes and duct tape spats on the street!") Anyway he made it to the Moose safely and certainly made a fashion statement that made an impression on the attendees.

The conclusion: A successful tournament as always in Elkland, thanks to a great job by Bill and Grant Sherman and all the Thunderbellys and the legion of volunteers. I am already looking forward to the 61st edition. Good fastball, good friends, good times, good memories.

For those of you who haven't read the blog over the years, some of the references above might be confusing. I highly recommend you check out these previous Elkland posts from years gone by!

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