Smithers will be the host for the 2018 BC Provincial Boys Softball Championships.
The competition will consist of up to 24 teams in four divisions: under 19, under 16, under 14 and under 12. The tournament runs July 5-8.
According to Scott Groves, in charge of organizing the event, Smithers is looking to have a team in each category.
In addition, the girls Northwest Regional fastpitch team going to the BC Summer Games the weekend after on Vancouver Island may have an opportunity to play in the tournament depending on the number of teams registered. According to Groves, they would not be eligible for any prizes but he feels it would be good practice for them to play the more experienced teams.
Groves, who is the fixed operations manager at Coast Mountain GM, has been involved with softball since 2008. He said that Smithers junior softball started out quite a few years ago and has experienced some ups and downs, but is now growing.
“We’ve been pretty consistent over the last few years. We’ve had between 130 to 160 athletes per year registered. We’re seeing some growth. For example, we have two teams from Hazelton this year,” he said.
There has been success for the program with quite a few athletes going on to participate in the BC Summer Games and beyond. Last year, for example, his son played in the Canadian Summer Games.
“They did not do as well as we had hoped but we’ve committed to participate in 2021,” said Groves.
This will be the first time for such a large tournament in Smithers.
“It’s the the largest tournament that we’ve held in Smithers on the junior side in the time since I’ve been around,” he said.
According to Groves, the Northwest region is one of the strongest groups in the province for the number of boys registered to play.
“The program in the Lower Mainland has more participants but it’s primarily girls. Most of the boys who play are basically north of Hope,” he said.
That may be because of the options of baseball in the Lower Mainland that do not exist in the smaller communities of the Interior and North. Groves feels that the availability of fields is one issue. For example, there are many slowpitch fields in the Interior which are easily adaptable to softball.
After their involvement in softball, many boys go on to play slowpitch. On the men’s side of the sport, fastpitch has dwindled over the years throughout the province.
“That said with the program I am participating in with Softball BC, we’re forming an all-star team which will be participating in the 2021 Canada Games and the idea is to give some of the younger men a chance to play a little higher level fastball and try to grow the numbers of the men’s side over the next few years as well,” he said.
Groves feels that there is a special appeal to the game.
“One of the main differences between softball and baseball is the pace of the game,” said Groves. “A fastball game of seven well played innings can be played between an hour to an hour and a half. You can get more games in on a weekend than baseball games. The action is just a lot faster.”
He explained that there are shorter pitching distances and there are some rules that mean there are fewer delays on the mound. Seven innings versus nine innings and shorter distances between the bases make for a faster paced competition.
Currently Groves and others involved in the 2018 BC Provincial Boys Softball Championships are holding meetings to put together committees that will help in the organizing process.
“Once the committee is put together, we are going to be looking for some community volunteers,” he said.