Manitoulin Special Olympics Ball Tournament returns to the field

The Manitoulin Nightriders took gold in the Adapt (T-ball) division.

MINDEMOYA—The Manitoulin Special Olympics (MSO) annual ball tournament has been a perennial favourite late summer pastime for many, but the pandemic kept teams from the field over the past two years. This past weekend, the ball tournament returned and proved to be a homerun hit for all.

“It is really nice to see everyone again,” said organizer Janet Anning. “We see so many familiar faces here today that we haven’t seen in too long a time.” Ms. Anning noted that many of the participants, some coming from as far afield as Timmins and North Bay, have been regulars over the years and have been sorely missed by both the players and volunteers.

The atmosphere was vibrant as the teams arrived and lined up behind their respective signs to troop out onto the field for the opening ceremonies. Plenty of banter could be heard taking place among the players eager to get things started.

“If you want to hear pure and honest comment, this is the place to be,” laughed scorekeeper and announcer Greg Lockeyer, who has been the recipient of plenty of good-natured verbal pokes himself down through the years.

Volunteers from Manitoulin, North Bay, Sudbury and Timmins were enjoying themselves just as much as the players.

“It’s really nice to be back,” said umpire Bruce Wiggins. “We’ve all really missed this.”

Mr. Wiggins noted that there were a lot more umpires on the bases this year, commenting loudly to Mr. Lockeyer about this observation and drawing a bit of teasing himself.

Coming to a ball tournament on Manitoulin Island takes more than a little volunteer commitment and a whole lot of funds, noted an organizer from Timmins, who shared the cost for this trip would top $12,000 before the final pitch. “We raise money throughout the year through our bingos,” she said. “But with the pandemic that has been tough.”

Thankfully, Island accommodation providers have been very helpful.

“We like to keep the costs down as much as we can,” said the Timmins organizer. “The motel owner let us use his barbecue to prepare meals for our teams and that has really helped us out a lot.”

The opening ceremonies began with the trooping of the teams onto the field and the singing of ‘O Canada.’ This was followed by the recital of the Players’ Oath by Manitoulin player Tyler Madahbee: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt,” followed by the famous invocation: “play ball!”

“It was a great weekend,” said Ms. Anning. “Thank you to all of our volunteers this weekend, from the kitchen workers, the umpires, the ground crew, to all those who just showed and asked what they could do to help. Everyone was so thankful that this tournament was once again able to take place, but no one was happier than all the athletes. You could see all of the huge smiles as they got off the buses. Every athlete went home with a medal to finish off their day. We live in the greatest place in this country.”

Many members of the Manitoulin community came out to cheer the home teams on, but there was plenty of applause when the other team members made a great play as well.

Results from the tournament are: B level, gold for North Bay and silver for Timmins (coincidently two of the teams in the tournament who travelled the furthest). In the C level A division it was gold for Sudbury and silver for Timmins. C level B division saw Manitoulin Wolverines pull in gold, while silver went to North Bay. In the Adapt (T-ball) division, it was Manitoulin Night Riders with the gold and Sudbury taking home the silver.