The Trail Smoke Eaters will swing into their season in a fun if not unlikely fashion as they get set to take on the Greater Trail RCMP and Firefighters on Sept. 3, however, the game won’t be on Cominco ice but on the Butler ball diamond.
Following the Smoke Eaters camp this weekend, the team will host a Charity Softball Game at Butler Park against Trail’s finest with the proceeds of the game going to the newly organized Smoke Eater Booster Club, the Special Olympics and the KBRH Foundation critical care campaign, the chosen charities of the RCMP and Trail Firefighters.
“I’ve seen it at the professional level and it’s usually a pretty fun event,” said Smokies coach and GM Nick Deschenes. “You raise money for a good cause and it helps people identify with their players a little bit more. There are really so many positives to it . . . and we’re hoping it will become an annual event.”
The Smoke Eater Booster Club was resurrected earlier this summer with the specific purpose of helping the players with nutrition and fitness, and the softball game is one of it’s first fundraising initiatives.
“The reality is, is that there are some things that our players financially, with our team being a city-owned team, we just don’t have endless supplies of money,” said club member Scott Calvin.
“We wanted to find a way that we could raise some money to get the players some things that the team otherwise wouldn’t be able to get for them – work-out gear and pre- and post-game nutrition. Our whole purpose this year is to ‘Fuel the Smokies’,”
The booster club is a separate entity from the team, but both work cooperatively towards the same goal – of improving the players and increasing their role in the community.
“We are the most senior hockey outfit in town, and if we do the right job in developing young men and being active community members, it’s going to trickle down and it’s going to benefit from top to bottom,” said Deschenes. “So I think if people see the value in that, it will help not only the Smoke Eaters but a lot of community involvement and support.”
The Smoke Eaters executive also pitched in, donating tickets so that all kids who attend the charity softball game will receive free admission to the Smokies’ “Home Opener” versus the Penticton Vees Sept. 26. In addition, all adults that make a $20 donation at the game will also receive a free ticket to the home opener against the Vees.
“The Smoke Eaters are donating all the tickets to us, and that’s a huge thing,” said Calvin. “We’re really hopeful we get lots of people out. Tom (Gawryletz) and the executive work tirelessly, and there’s only four of them. If it wasn’t for them there would be no team here.”
The Firefighters and RCMP will field a team of 16 players to compete against a full Smokies squad, and while it has been a while since the participants have actually took a swing at a softball, they are more than ready to bring it on.
“I don’t even know what the rules are going to be . . . but we’re always game for something,” quipped RCMP constable Kerry Szkica.
The softball game is a good opportunity for residents to meet the Smoke Eaters as well as the RCMP and Firefighters who serve and protect our community.
The players will be greeting fans at the gate, interacting with the crowd, and selling 50-50 tickets throughout the game. There will also be an area for kids to play whiffle ball with the players, and full food service at the concession
“We want them to be very involved in this,” said Calvin. “This is going to be kids on the field and everybody that’s not on the field is going to be doing something interactive with the people that are there.”
To take that further, the Smoke Eaters also plan to enhance their profile within the community and work closer with the City of Trail.
“We’re looking to make our players available for really anything in the community, whether it’s moving furniture or shovelling snow,” said Deschenes.
“We just want to be out there and give back to the people that I think make all this possible.”
See Thursday’s Trail Times for more on the Smoke Eater’s fall camp.