Hot Hot Heat: Cranbrook saves day, will host provincial softball championship

Cranbrook Heat step to plate with Softball BC searching for U16C provincial championship host site; tournament set for July 1 to 3

The Cranbrook U16 Heat burned through round-robin action in Red Deer this past weekend

The Cranbrook U16 Heat burned through round-robin action in Red Deer this past weekend

Without a host site for its 2016 U16C Provincial Championship, Softball BC was desperate.

Then the Cranbrook Heat stepped to the plate.

A year after not even having a U16 girls softball team, Cranbrook will welcome the rest of British Columbia for a 16-team provincial tournament, scheduled for July 1 to 3 at the Kinsmen Quad Ballparks.

“It’s so awesome, the girls are so excited because they get to play at home,” said Teralie McCormack, tournament coordinator for the U16C Provincial Championship, Tuesday morning.

“The girls are pumped. They’re so excited.”

With Cranbrook tucked in the southeast corner of the province, there is no shortage of well-documented challenges when it comes to competitive, high-end minor sports, especially minor girls softball.

To this point in 2016, the nearest competition has required the Heat to travel to Red Deer and Kelowna, with the only available local house-league competition coming in the form of the U14 squad.

That isn’t exactly fair to the U14s and certainly does not provide ample challenge for the older and more physically mature U16 crew.

“Because we live so far away from everything, [the provincial championship] is one of the tournaments we count on,” said McCormack, whose daughter Brea pitches for the Heat.

“We applied the first week of April. We phoned our district representative… She told us Softball BC was desperate. They don’t want to have to cancel it.”

Typically, decisions on host sites are made well in advance of provincial tournaments of this size. As recently as March, Softball BC was still without a host site for its U16C Provincial Softball Championship, leaving very little time to not only drum up a host but allow fair time for proper organization and preparation in order to produce a quality event.

Headed up by McCormack, the Heat’s bid to host the provincial tournament was promptly accepted by Softball BC. In quick order, the provincial governing body for softball also tossed a great deal of financial support behind the event in order to help get it off the ground.

“It’s kind of been a gongshow from there,” McCormack said with a laugh. “Normally you apply for this bid in October of the previous year. We’ve been kind of scrambling because there are certain things under Softball BC regulations that we have to perform as hosts of this tournament.”

Tournaments hosts are required to provide facilities for, obviously, game play, but also for events such as pre-tournament coaches meetings and athlete meals. Additionally, it is expected that hosts will provide all participants with commemorative t-shirts, an extracurricular group activity outside of tournament play for athletes (skills competition, home run derby, relay competition, scavenger hunt, etc.) and have printed programs on hand for spectators.

And that is just to list a few of the extensive requirements, of which each item can require extensive planning, resources and volunteer hours to pull together.

Softball BC has offered to cover the costs of umpires and equipment such as softballs for the weekend, an expense typically incurred by the host. The City of Cranbrook has provided use of the fields at Kinsmen Quad Ballparks as a part of the Heat’s minor ball registration and is on board to provide support in terms of facility staff.

“From the City’s perspective, we’re always happy when any of our sport groups or service clubs come together and bring activities to our community,” said Chris New, director of leisure services for the City of Cranbrook, on Tuesday.

“Anytime the community initiates these type of projects, we certainly try to support them as best we can.

“We hope a lot of these people, it’s their first time [visiting Cranbrook], they’re coming here and discovering us. So they’re seeing the beautiful setting we have, the beautiful city we have and we hope those folks end up being future tourists, maybe future residents. It’s just another opportunity to showcase everything we have here.”

Bridge Interiors and Rick’s Fine Meats & Sausage have combined forces to host a car wash and barbecue fundraiser (June 25, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Bridge Interiors) for the event. Bridge Interior is also providing use of its outdoor tents for the course of the tournament.

The Cranbrook Mixed Slo-Pitch Association donated the use of its field maintenance equipment, which typically comes with an associated rental fee.

That’s just to name a few of the local groups throwing support behind the event, with plenty of others in line to pitch in over the coming weeks.

“The community support has been unreal considering how quickly we’ve had to put this together,” McCormack said. “It’s been wonderful.”

When 16 teams finally arrive for the provincial championship in July, they will go head-to-head in a round-robin tournament format, with each team guaranteed a minimum of four games. Playoff structure is still to be determined.

Games are tentatively scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. on Friday, July 1, and run all day at the Kinsmen Quad Ballparks. Saturday, July 2, round-robin action will resume at 8 a.m., after which there will be a break as playoff schedules are determined.

Playoff competition will start the afternoon of July 2, with July 3 serving as championship Sunday.

While the event is coming together in lightning-quick fashion, there is still plenty to be done between now and July 1.

Qualifier playdowns are still on-going throughout the province, with six teams having registered as of print deadline Tuesday.

The Heat are still in need of volunteers for the tournament, particularly when it comes to scorekeeping and field maintenance. Anyone interested in volunteering their services or time is encouraged to contact McCormack via email (bbat@shaw.ca) or phone (778-517-4527).

The Cranbrook Heat won the 2013 U16C Provincial Championship, which was hosted in Salmo.