I met my husband 20 years ago through a mutual friend who played on his baseball team.
“Tell him Shippy says hi,” Ken James said after suggesting I look up his teammate at my new place of employment. “Maybe he’ll introduce you to some people.”
I thought that was a good idea and after a few days on the job I e-mailed Paul Welbourne, also known as “Nuke” to Ken and the rest of their team. Even though he worked in a different building than I did, we arranged to meet for coffee at the end of the day.
At the time Paul was a pitcher in a competitive men’s league with the Vancouver Pharaohs. He also played softball with a group of work pals I met after our coffee.
We became fast friends and I soon learned how passionate his family was for the sport. His nieces and nephews played in T-Ball and little league, his sisters played when they were younger, and his father played for many years—and by the time I met him he was a provincial commissioner of Babe Ruth Baseball.
Since then Gord Welbourne has been honoured by the Coquitlam Sports Hall of Fame and the Babe Ruth Hall of Fame for his 45 years of service for the North American association.
Even Grandpa Charlie was a ball player and heavily involved in growing the sport in Burnaby before and after the Second World War.
But now the only one in the Welbourne clan who plays ball regularly is our 11-year-old daughter, Daisy. Without any coaxing from us, she felt it was her destiny and joined the Westside Outlaws in the Westside Minor Fastball Association three years ago.
Initially she wasn’t always focused and it wouldn’t be unusual to see her doing cartwheels in the outfield. But in the last year she’s suddenly become more serious about the sport.
She’s also keen on getting better. As a result of her improvements, as well as those of all her teammates, the games have become more interesting to watch.
The most exciting one I’ve witnessed personally happened at a recent tournament in Summerland when her team was down 12 runs in the last inning of the finals.
We didn’t think there was much of a chance they’d win a medal at that point, but after Daisy’s friend, Sammi, shut down their opponents with her superb pitching, and the entire team came together to make an incredible comeback with a bunch of runs, they unexpectedly had a chance to win.
It was one of those nail-biting experiences I’ll never forget. With two outs, and the bases loaded it was Daisy’s turn up at bat.
Standing on the sidelines I felt increasingly stressed as each pitch was thrown. It felt like slow motion to me as I tried to telepathically send her a message to relax, have fun and go for it. Finally, the decisive moment that would determine a win or loss for the Outlaws was upon us.
With two strikes and three balls, my daughter stood at home plate ready for the last pitch. As the girls and the coach cheered her on, affectionately calling her “Crazy”, my friend’s dad yelled “Here’s your chance to be a hero.”
I held my breath, the ball was thrown, and Daisy swung at it with everything she had, plowing it straight down the middle to the outfield, as the girls on base ran into home, winning the game. It was tremendously exciting and one of those times I wish a video camera had been rolling.
It was also one of those moments that has Daisy feeling her family’s passion for baseball even more than she already did.
Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com.