After months playing games only against each other – or not playing at all – the White Rock Renegades are set to host a softball tournament on Canada Day that would be one of the first large-scale sporting events on the Semiahmoo Peninsula since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Though provincial health restrictions – and a rise in the B.C.’s COVID-19 rate – could still scuttle plans, the Renegades are set to host its annual Canadian Pride and Power Tournament from July 1-4 at both Softball City and Cloverdale Athletic Park. Normally, the tournament is held over the May long weekend, but was moved to the summer after the province announced its restart plans earlier this month.
Between 40 and 50 teams from across the Lower Mainland – in divisions ranging from under-12 to U19 – are expected to take part, including all nine Renegades squads. Assuming the province’s restart plan goes as expected, the games will mark the first time teams have played against other organizations since a brief window late last fall.
“Before that, it was just socially distanced catch for months,” said Renegades president Greg Timm.
“We were hoping things would turn around in time (for the May long weekend) but when (restrictions) didn’t allow it, we extended it into July and we just want to make it a celebration of the return of sports. Everybody is just itching to get going again and feel somewhat normal.
“It’s pretty exciting for our kids. They haven’t played a meaningful game in a long time… it’s basically been two seasons now.”
It’s not just members of the Renegades organization who are excited to see a return to competitive games on the horizon, he added. Once tournament organizers realized a July 1 tournament was feasible – again, barring any change in the pandemic landscape – Timm said the response was positive and immediate.
“Everyone was waiting, and we were kind of hoping that when Dr. Bonnie made her announcement that day, she would give (details) on a return-to-play plan,” Timm explained.
“We were ready to go, so as soon as we knew with some certainty that we could do it, we hit the invite button. And we had 40 or 50 teams respond within 48 hours. It was a huge and rapid response.”
Sliding the tournament to early July was relatively simple because Softball City had open dates due to the cancellation earlier this spring of the Canada Cup International Softball Championship.
Timm said having to cancel the popular international event for a second straight year due to the pandemic was unexpected.
“When we started to think about 2021 Canada Cup back in September of 2020, I couldn’t have imagined we were still going to be in this mess. We thought by January 2021 we’d be in the clear and ready to go, so it was almost surreal to us that this was still happening.”
The tournament relies on hundreds of volunteers to run smoothly, and though Timm said the two-year delay means they’ll have to start almost from scratch in recruiting new help – not to mention sponsors – for 2022, he was eager to praise not only Canada Cup staff, but also volunteers and coaches across the Peninsula for the work they’ve put in since the pandemic ground things to a halt.
“And not just our sport – volunteers in every sport,” he said. “Honest to God, it’s been the hardest thing for these volunteers to continue when they don’t see the results of their volunteerism.
“They kept the kids playing as much as they could, kept them organized. It’s been a huge commitment and a huge effort from people whose own lives were affected by COVID and thrown off-balance. I think the volunteers are the heroes out of all of this.”
Whether from players, coaches or other volunteers, when the first pitch is thrown at Softball City July 1, “there’s going to be a lot of excitement in the park,” Timm predicted.