The game of two-pitch baseball came back to town for the Brigade Days weekend, attracting 14 teams from down-valley and a few from local or formerly-local players.
“That’s two more than last year,” said organizer Jeff Smith on Tuesday. “We could have done more but we need more facilities for that.”
Games started at 6 p.m. on Friday, using two diamonds at Sixth Avenue Park and one at C.E. Barry School. Diamond No. 1 had the lights on for a second game before the fireworks display kicked off at Sixth Avenue Park.
There were 30 games in total, with teams paying $350 each for a four-game guarantee. The top four teams got to play an extra match for the prize money of $350, $250, $150 and $100.
Two-pitch has a history of being self-regulated by volunteer umpires from other teams but Smith figured he would make things cleaner and simpler by bringing in paid umpires this year.
“I play slo-pitch in Chilliwack, so I asked Bob Cochrane (slo-pitch umpire) to arrange all of the umps for me. It made my life a whole lot easier,” said Smith, who played on Chilliwack’s Filthy Animals team on the weekend.
“My slo-pitch guys aren’t used to some of the two-pitch rules but we’ve taken the rules down to about as easy as you can get,” explained Smith. “The big adjustment was on a caught fly ball. In two-pitch, it’s a dead ball and everyone else gets to go back to the base that they came from.”
In slo-pitch, other runners could get tagged out — or they could tag up and try to steal a base, as in traditional baseball, he said.
Despite the mixture of slo-pitch, two-pitch and “haven’t played in years” players, Smith said the games were relatively close.
“Nobody lost all that badly, even though there was no ‘mercy rule,’” said Smith, who grew up in Hope but now resides in Agassiz. “And there were no injuries that I’m aware of — and I’m a first aid guy.”
“We couldn’t have asked for better weather, either,” added Smith. “Not to complain — but it was even a bit hot out there!”
In the end, it was Agassiz-based teams that claimed the top three places and $750 in prize money. Jimmy’s Pub beat the Hope-based NGAFs in the consolation final and the Agassiz Shufflers edged out the Ballers for first place.
The game of two-pitch got its start in Hope in the early 1980s and was very popular until 2007, when only six teams were registered and the league folded shortly after. Slo-pitch had a short run of a few years and now the local diamonds are underutilized, though Hope Minor Softball is making a comeback.
Meanwhile — despite its smaller population — Agassiz has kept the game alive.
“I think they had 19 teams this year,” said Smith. “They play from April till just about July.
“Some of the players are from Hope, too. Hope could get it going again — but no one wants to step up and organize it,” he said.
Smith should know of what he speaks, as he was also the Brigade Days president this year.
“I took it on, on a temporary basis, hoping that someone would step in… but no one did.”
The rebirth of Hope Minor Softball gave Smith some hope that the town could rekindle the two-pitch game as well.
“Don’t take it too seriously, though,” he advised. “Just go out there and have some fun.”