Sports

Chilliwack in the running for softball championship

Gary Ahuja

Times Sports

Four months of hard work are set to pay off with two days of action-packed softball this weekend at Langley's Noel Booth Park.

"We have been working on this since late January and it has been ramping up ever since," said Jeff Clegg, who is serving as the tournament co-director alongside Kimberley Payne.

What the pair are overseeing is perhaps the largest U12 girls softball regional championships ever held in British Columbia.

Eighteen people are on the organizing committee as the Langley Fastball Association and North Langley Softball are teaming up to work together to stage the tournament.

It runs June 7 and 8 at Noel Booth Park (36 Avenue and 202 Street).

Twenty-three teams — from associations representing North Langley, Langley, Abbotsford, Mission, Cloverdale, North Delta, Chilliwack, North Surrey, Fleetwood Park, South Surrey/White Rock and South Delta — will be going for the gold medals.

"We are absolutely elated at the response we got from teams south of the Fraser," Clegg said.

"The response has been overwhelming, absolutely fantastic.

"It has been outstanding, but also very daunting."

That translates into more than 300 11 and 12-year-old players — as well as their parents, family members and spectators — will descend upon Noel Booth Park for the action.

Clegg said the extensive renovations over the past few years at the ballpark on 36 Avenue played a

role in helping the two local associations land the big tournament.

"It is really a fantastic softball facility and without Noel Booth Park, we wouldn't have been able to host a tournament of this size."

The hope is that larger tournaments may also help the sport retain players as they tend to see their numbers dwindle after the U12 level.

"If we can have provide them with some great memories and experiences of the sport, then there is a greater chance they might stay around the game," said Payne.

"Player retention is key," Clegg said. "We want to keep them."

The action gets underway on Saturday morning with the first pitch set for 8:20 a.m. and the games continuing until 6 p.m.

The opening ceremonies will begin at noon that day with a players' banquet that evening.

The games resume Sunday morning at 8:50 a.m. with the finals slated for about 5 p.m. They will be followed by the medal ceremonies.

"No liquid sunshine, hopefully," Clegg chuckled about the weather forecast.

•••

In addition to the tournament, a fundraiser will be taking place on Sunday through a special hitting competition.

Bats for Bartlett is looking to raise money for Katelyn Bartlett, a member of the North Langley U10 super mite team.

The little girl has been diagnosed with stage 4 RMS (Rhabdomyosarcoma) cancer and both of her parents are off work and by her side as she undergoes treatment at B.C. Children's Hospital.

Players, coaches, parents, friends and community members are asked to make a small donation for each ball hit in Katelyn's honour. This will be done between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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