Get out and play ball (slo-pitch, that is)
Bulbs are blooming, the grass is starting to grow, spring break is upon us–and best of all–slo-pitch season is on the horizon.
For those who have never played or spectated at a Powell River Mixed League Slo-Pitch game, you are definitely missing out.
The league has evolved in the many years I’ve been playing the game. I started playing when it was simply called “fun league” and it involved a pitcher lobbing a softball over the plate until the batter was able to connect with the ball. There were no walks and no strike-outs. At the time, my team’s home field was Palm Beach and our team name was the Boonie Bombers. I was in grade nine and the youngest in the league at the time. There were all different skill sets of players and it was a nice relaxed social evening out.
Over time, more and more people joined up to play and rules were adopted, changed, and more were implemented to get the league to where it is now.
Slo-Pitch Team Structure & Rules
Powell River Slo-Pitch is a mixed league, meaning teams are made up of both men and women. The traditional nine positions are filled – back catcher, pitcher, first, second, and third base, short stop, left, right, and centre field. However, one of the things which sets slo-pitch apart is the addition of a 10th position called the “rover”. The rover is a fourth fielder who tends to move around in the outfield depending on the batting habits of the other team and/or the strengths of your own outfielders and infielders.
There must be a minimum of four women on the field at one time and most often in our Powell River league, the field is filled with four women and six men. In our local league, we use two different sizes of softball. A regular sized softball is used when a male is batting and a smaller sized softball is used for the ladies. The pitcher lobs the ball up in the air and it arcs up between six to twelve feet to be a legal pitch and then drops down onto the plate. In slo-pitch, the ball is a strike if it hits the plate.
Plays at home plate are also different than regular softball. There is a line (sometimes marked, more often just judged by the umpire by looking along the first base line) behind the plate. Runners race the ball to the plate and win by crossing the line before the back catcher catches the ball while standing on the plate. There is no tagging involved at home plate. If the runner steps on the plate, they are immediately out. This is much safer for both the runner and the back catcher.
During league play, we umpire our own games. The team batting provides the home-plate umpire and the base coaches act as base umps. During tournaments, this may also be the case, it depends on the rules implemented by the team hosting the tournament.
A league of friends and family
Many people have come and gone over the years. I’ve now gone from being the youngest player on the field to a seasoned veteran playing with kids that were born to my friends over the years. I’ve gotten slower with age and I find it frustrating, but my teammates don’t seem to care. After all, we’re there because we love ball and the league has become a large family of people.
Over the years, this family has expanded and Powell River welcomes players from the lower Sunshine Coast to our tournaments each year and our teams will also travel down there to play.
Tourneys bring Tourism
There is an economic benefit of the friendships that have been built over the years as local slo-pitch tournaments often bring in a large amount of people for the weekend who eat in Powell River restaurants, support our grocery stores & pubs and shop for local souvenirs, stay in our hotels and camp in our campgrounds. Keeping the math simple, if we have five teams come in from out of town with just the minimum of players to field a team, that’s fifty people spending tourism dollars locally. Rarely do teams come with the minimum of players, however. Most often there are spares in tow, along with family and friends who’ve come along for the road trip.
One thing that has stayed constant with slo-pitch ball in Powell River since I first started out over 20 years ago is the camaraderie and variety of skill sets that come out to participate. It has always been a family-friendly sport here and families come out with kids in tow to play together at the field while their parents, grand-parents, aunts and uncles all play a fun game of ball. Over time, those children also sign up to play when they reach the current minimum age of 15.
Sign up for Slo-Pitch
So, if you’re reading this and want to give slo-pitch a try, there is a Facebook page for Powell River Slo-Pitch. The league AGM is happening tonight, March 15th at 7pm in the Poplar Room at the Powell River Recreation Complex. Coaches will be in attendance so you can learn about the league as well as put your name out there that you’d like to play. If you’ve got a bunch of friends that would like to join the league, hit the meeting and let them know you’d like to field a team. The quickest and easiest way to learn is to get out there and play! The more the merrier!
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