By Connor Jones
In honour of Major League Baseball starting up, I figured it’s time for another baseball story.
It’s 2001, and the Beaver Valley Allstars had a heckuva team.
Everybody worked their butts off to get the team and field ready for the end of July when we were hosting the provincial championships. All the families involved worked tirelessly to get the field ready for the tournament. It was incredible. The Underwood’s, Moncrief’s, Bouma’s, Rypien’s, and the Duley’s, to name a few. Wow, the hours we put in.
For the entire summer we had two-a-day practices. We would hit in the morning, then fielding at night.
Between me, Rylan Duley, Nick Rypien, and Joey Underwood, we must have turned 20,000 double plays and ran down 40,000 more ground balls. We were vacuums out there. By the end of each practice, we’d all be soaked with sweat and covered in dirt from diving after balls, and still, loving every second of it. That summer taught us to work and that practice and repetition really do create perfection.
As we moved into the tournament we knew we’d have to beat some excellent teams to get to the Cal Ripken World Series. If we could win the tourney it was straight to the big show.
Opening game, we lost to Surrey 1-0. Kellen pitched a gem though, and the guy they threw was the biggest twelve year old I’d ever seen. He threw complete smoke and we only had one dinky hit.
By the end of the tournament, we had clinched a spot in the playoffs, but, we needed to win our last game to get the second place seed. Important because if we lost then we were the fourth seed and would have to play Surrey in the semis and Kel wouldn’t be able to pitch that game.
So here we were, a bunch of scrappy Beaver Valley boys going into the bottom of the sixth down 2-1 against a tough Nanaimo team. The bottom half of our order was coming up, batters, seven, eight, and nine. We needed them to clutch up. They did. Kyle Cara, ‘Killer,’ gets plunked, Ryp lines one up the middle, then ninth batter Eric ‘Boomer’ Bouma dunks one behind third base. Bases loaded, and then Kellen strikes out for the first time all tournament. Then Dules comes up, fakes a bunt, swings and lines it past third base. Killer scores, game is tied.
I’m up next, completely psyched. In my head I’m hitting a home run to win the game. I instead popped out to first base, two out.
Zak is at the plate, Dules on first, Boomer at second, and Ryp at third. Ryp, our fastest runner, nicest guy, but somehow our worst base runner.
Even though we already would make the playoffs, it was intense, the crowd is standing and the pressure is on.
First pitch, Zak swings and misses, second, foul ball. The count is 0-2.
The next pitch is wild and it gets by the catcher, it hits the wall perfectly and starts dribbling back towards home plate. Ryp, who sees the ball fly past the catcher, takes off towards home, head down, running as hard as he can.
Oh my, he’s going to be out by 20 feet.
The catcher is only a few steps from home plate, he grabs the ball and jogs back to tag Nick as he slides in. Clearly out, we all groan. Until, the ump swings his arms wildly. ‘Safe!’ He yells.
The ball is on the ground. We win. We fly out of the dugout and dog pile on him. An amazing victory even though we lost the final game 3-2.
So the lesson? Never give up? Take a chance? Work hard? Yes, for sure, more importantly though, hold on to the dang baseball.
With the start of baseball season, Connor Jones shares his memories of growing up in Trail.