A national fastpitch championship held in St. John's over the weekend saw 18 teams descend on the province, which advocates for the sport called a boon for softball in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The 2022 Men's and Master Men's Canadian Fastpitch Championship, hosted by Softball Newfoundland and Labrador, was held at the Caribou Memorial Softball Complex from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4.
For Softball N.L., hosting the five-day tournament was a success, says president Gary Corbett.
"It gives an opportunity to really grow the game of fastpitch softball in our province," said Corbett.
"It gives an opportunity not only for the fans to see the level, minor people to be encouraged to where they would like to be."
The 37th annual championships were initially planned for 2020 but had to be postponed twice due to the pandemic.
The sporting event started off with a total of 18 teams — 12 in the men's and six in the master's division. Out of those 18 teams, four were from Newfoundland and Labrador: CoolBet Hitmen, The Big's Physio and Co., and DC Galway Hitmen all competed in the men's division, while East Coast Mortgage Brokers Hitmen played for the title in the master's division.
All but The Big's Physio and Co. made it into the championship games on Sunday.
Tournament director Ivan Hapgood says a few factors contribute to the national success of provincial teams.
"Our players now, I mean, they travel to some strong competitive tournaments. That's certainly very important and they're well [acclimatized] toward what's taking place," said Hapgood.
"But the big thing, I would suggest, over the years has been maintaining a good strong senior and intermediate league here in the province."
Corbett echoes this. He says the success of provincial players, both male and female, on national and international levels also acts as incentive for up-and-coming young players.
"These are all role models," said Corbett. "They're not only here playing ball, they're also out in the community with local associations, and with our association when called upon, to really deliver a skill set of technical skills to help younger children get excited about the game, improve their skills and maybe they will be on the world level in years to come."
That and high youth registration numbers make Corbett look optimistically to the future of softball.
Corbett says the association also aims to build softball infrastructure across the province to further grow the sport, adding that hosting tournaments is an opportunity to do exactly that.
"Newfoundland and Labrador's hosting the Canada Summer Games in 2025. So the city has made a start here in trying to improve the facilities," said Corbett.
"We would like to have the facility in every which way at some of the best in the country. And that takes time and it takes an investment of money ... and hopefully through the Canada Games we will get to that level."
Both local and visiting players, says Corbett, already praised the amenities provided for this year's national championships, like massage, physio or the use of three fields in the neighbouring Techniplex.
East Coast Mortgage Brokers Hitmen lost the final game in the master's division to Saskatchewan's Melfort 222.
For the men's title, DC Galway Hitmen faced off against the Toronto Batmen in the final game of the championship. The Hitmen won the game, bringing home gold and defending their title.