Rob Ellis makes good things happen. A talented shortstop, coach, league president and big-time sponsor, Ellis likes to pay it forward without much fanfare.
His prefers to fly under the radar, but enough people know what he means to the community. ‘Smiles and hugs go a million miles’ is his motto and for that, Ellis has won the Kelly Roste Memorial Award from the Vernon Umpires Association.
The trophy, presented in memory of Roste, a popular fastball player and umpire who died in December, 1998 in a car accident, was previously received by Chris Lynch, Heather Savitsky, Dave Schaefer, Keith Louis, Gary Roste (Kelly’s father), Dennis Einarson, Ann Holmes, Rob Ferroux and Jim Sanderson. It goes to a person who demonstrates extraordinary service to local fastball and slo-pitch.
Raised on his grandfather’s orchards in Summerland, Ellis enjoyed an active childhood with hockey, baseball, basketball, track and field.
“I played shortstop from the early days; I was fortunate to have some natural abilities,” said Ellis, a 51-year-old married father with a young son. “T-ball was where it all started per say in regards to baseball. Mr. Munroe was my very first coach. I learned a great deal from him on many aspects and my grandfather taught me life’s lessons. I continued on with my baseball until I was 14 at which point and time hockey was my sport of choice. During the summer months I joined my family slo-pitch team.
“My grandfather (Gordon Beggs) sponsored our slo-pitch team and hockey teams. I took great pride in playing for the family name and my grandfather’s business name. I learned the value of business and what it meant to be a sponsor.”
Ellis moved to Vernon when he was 22 and knew a great deal about the area due in large part to playing in the Funtastic tourney with his family. He talked to Doug Ross at parks and rec and soon joined the Bees men’s slo-pitch team for a year before moving to the co-ed Beer Nutz. A few seasons later, he played for the Wildcats men’s team for provincial and national playdowns.
He then began coaching and sponsoring teams before getting picked up by a Maple Ridge entry for the B.C. co-ed championships. That Vernon-Maple Ridge club (Rellish Transport Posse) struck silver and excelled for the next four years.
“The last four years of mixed ball, I stepped in as president of the league to put the business back into the leadership of the league. After a couple of years turning it around and getting it back on the track, the league was able to do things for all the leagues. It was this league that installed and paid for the new base program that is still in use at all the diamonds at DND. All the teams volunteered people and the job was completed with huge success.
“We as a executive were able to secure league sponsors and assist those teams that needed team sponsorship. During this duration of the past 10 years my company (Rellish) also sponsored many local organizations. The list is long and vast. Boys and Girls clubs, United Way, Rick Hansen Foundation, sponsored a race car, sponsored SPN provincials and nationals, local food banks, sponsored boys and girls hockey and ringette teams, Upper Room Mission, Cancer Society, Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation, more baseball teams, Kindale, Vernon Winter Carnival, Funtastic, the list goes on. My Grandfather always told me ‘Give from your heart, not for public perception’ and he was 100 per cent right.”
During the final stages of his playing days, Ellis mustered up the Bees, along with a female ball player and a female marathon runner to create and organize one of the most exciting events held in the Okanagan Valley: the Easter Seals Camp Winfield Extreme Makeover project.
“My goal from the start of this was to go to the camp with a few volunteers and complete a few projects to help the camp and the kids. 14 months of planning and hard work from the entire team created the end result of a $1.5 million dollar transformation of the entire camp for all its kids and campers. This by a landslide was one of the most exhausting events I’ve ever organized and taken part in, however, the end result one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever been apart of in my entire life. Pretty impressive what a group of ball players can do if you give them a challenge. After 30 years within the community and ball scene I still see the impact of sponsorship and community support.
“It warms my heart to see in some small way that myself and my company have been able to assist in the dreams and goals of others…I’m living my grandfather’s legacy and dream to hopefully be remotely close to whom and what he was.”
Said umpires association president Wendy Filbrandt: “He likes to fly under the radar – very humble. We picked him on our radar for what he has contributed to the community through the love of softball.”