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Column: Welcoming Western Canada to Estevan

An opinion piece on the previous and upcoming Western Canada Baseball Championships.

One of my favourite memories from my time in Estevan came in August 2008.

The Energy City was hosting the Western Canada Baseball Championships for the U18 and U15 AAA divisions. We’d had some great teams in Estevan since I moved here in 2000, and for some of the players on the U18 team, it would be their final games in minor baseball. For others, they had just one or two years of youth baseball eligibility remaining.

The Estevan KPC U18 Blazers team was loaded with talent. Several players from that squad would earn college scholarships thanks to their baseball acumen. Others went on to be really good senior baseball players in the Saskota and other leagues. And the players the Blazers picked up for Westerns came up big, too.

Estevan reached the final but trailed entering the seventh and final inning. The Blazers scored three times to take the lead, but then gave up the tying run in the bottom of the seventh against their foes from B.C. The Blazers regrouped and scored five times in the eighth to win 9-4 in front of a large crowd at Lynn Prime Park. It’s likely the most exciting youth baseball game I’ve covered during my time here.

The victory gave Estevan its first Western Canada baseball championship after so many close calls the previous few years. And it was the final game as a coach for Mel Murray, a true icon for the sport in Estevan who is a deserving member of the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame.

So many reasons to reflect fondly on that game.

For the first time since 2008, Estevan will play host to a Western Canada Baseball Championship, with games in the U13, U15 and U18 AA levels being played here. It’s going to be a great four days for our community.

We get to have some great baseball in the city. It’s an opportunity to showcase our facilities at Lynn Prime Park and Mel Murray Cactus Park, and all of the hard work that has gone into improving them. It’s another chance for us to make people aware of the great volunteers that we have in Estevan.

And it’s just a great opportunity to show people all that our community has to offer.

As I’ve stressed before with other marquee events, these competitions carry a big economic spinoff for the community. They bring people to Estevan who normally wouldn’t be here. These guests are going to stay in our hotels, spend money at our restaurants and service stations, and hopefully visit our local businesses.

Most of these visitors to Estevan wouldn’t be here under other circumstances, and they might not be here again, so  let’s make this visit a positive one.

I hope they have a great time here. Except when they play Estevan on the ball diamond. Then I hope those with the visiting teams say “Yeah, we lost. But the facilities and the umpires were great.” 

Regardless, there are so many winners, both on and off the field, when we get an event like Western Canadians in our community.

As for the players, I hope they make the most of the next few days. Most players, regardless of the sport, don’t win a provincial championship. Especially in a sport like baseball that has so many teams and so many players from across the provinces. And winning a provincial championship doesn’t guarantee a Western Canadian or a national championship to compete in.

So hopefully the players make the most of this weekend. And have fun. Yes, we all want to win regardless of what we’re doing, but youth sports is supposed to be about fun and making friends and developing a love for the game.

No matter what happens on the field this season, hopefully it won’t sour you on your accomplishments of the past few months.

The baseball will be great. We’ll be treated to watching the champions from each of the four Western provinces, and the host Estevan teams.

Sometimes a team can get hot at just the right time, and carry that momentum into a deep playoff run.

I certainly hope that everyone leaves here after the tournament raving about this community.

And I know some will have memories as rich and as wonderful as those that were created back in 2008.