The Blue Jays at the Western Canada Summer Games in 2008 – the core of the team remains the same. Submitted photo
By Jon Zacks
Fort St. John’s Midget Blue Jays are nearing the end of an epic run.
Since the mid-1990’s, the team has grown up together, making the most of Peace Country summers by playing ball, and then staying out to watch men’s league fastball games.
The core of the team has stayed together, and has made numerous runs to the B.C. championships, as well as a couple of trips to the Western Canadian championships.
But this year, with the bulk of the team graduating from Junior Fastball eligibility, the players are hoping to go out in style, with one last run at the national championship.
Organizer Jenn Bell has been watching the team prepare for its final season, but says it has run into an unexpected obstacle – a lack of competition. “This used to be a fastball town” Bell laments, as the team struggles to find opponents to play against. The Blue Jays are the only Midget team in the area, but are more than willing to play men’s teams, or any other team that can push them, and make them better. At a community fastball meeting this week, Bell says just two people showed up, herself included, leaving her running out of options.
Some of the players will get individual challenges, such as Kory Bell and Cody Hildebrand – a pitcher / catcher duo that’s been invited to play at an international softball tournament in the United States this summer. But the team as a whole needs local competition, and Bell stresses the Jays are willing to accommodate any takers. “We’ll play on their schedule, on their nights. We’re flexible, we’ll provide the umps” she says.
Naturally, with the team hoping to travel to a possible three championships this year (winners of the B.C. championship can advance directly to the Canadian championship, or may have to play through the Western Championship), Bell admits the Blue Jays will also need help fundraising. “The boys do carwashes, they do bottle drives, they’ll do just about anything to raise the money.” Bell says that the community has always responded when asked to support the team.
But, she remains focused on competition as the team’s number one concern. She says another meeting is planning for (Tues) May 11th, at 7 p.m. at the Legion. She also invites anyone interested to call her, at 250-793-4454.
With two months to go until the Provincial Championships, and interest in fastball in Fort St. John tangibly waning, Jenn Bell is working hard to facilitate one last fling for a team she’s come to admire over the years. “They’ve worked hard – I’ve watched them do it” she says. “It’s been six nights a week practicing, and all winter they’ve been in the gym.” She just hopes the hard work will pay off.