“It’s something that’s really been cultivated over the last few years.”
That’s what Harley Desjarlais said when asked by PrinceGeorgeMatters what the game of fastball means to local Indigenous communities as a prestigious national tournament is set to return to Prince George in summer next year that celebrates sport, culture and tradition.
The Canadian Native Fastball Championships are set to bring more than 80 of the country’s best teams across five categories to the traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh in during the August 2020 long weekend.
Desjarlais is the chairman of the organizing committee for the 46th installment of the annual event and believes Indigenous people have embraced the sport to its fullest, which, for some, has been passed down through generations.
“I think initially it was a means to gather and we started to notice a lot of our people were starting to excel to the point of them getting involved in a lot of national programs,” he said.
“I believe, of the 40 people listed for the [Canadian] national team, over 10 or 20 per cent of them are aboriginal people. So this sport is one that’s very well received in our community.”
Recent success for local ballplayers include Nicholas Potskin, son of Canadian Native Fastball Association President Randy Potskin, who’s currently playing in New Zealand during the island nation’s summer months in getting more playing time.
.@SoftballCanada pools Prince George's Nicholas Potskin to receive invites to national team camps in 2020 🇨🇦 This comes a week before the 22-year-old moves to New Zealand to play ball during their summer season 🥎 | https://t.co/GOer9NE8PQ #CityOfPG @nativesportspg @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/gDPOD5vD1k— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) October 29, 2019
The Big Guy Lake Kings finished seventh at the 2019 championships in Grande Prairie and will be the host team once again as Desjarlais explains the close proximity of each ballpark being a big draw for incoming clubs.
“Our past performance certainly had a big impact on our bid this time around. Everybody is very aware of the facilities and everybody is also very aware of the partnership we have in the community, and this event is really perfect for a city this size. It tends to get lost in places like Winnipeg or Edmonton, whereas here it has a big, significant impact on the community.”
This will be the fourth time Prince George will host a Canadian Native Fastball Championship, adding 2020 to the line-up with 2016, 2004 and 1994 and its estimated to have a $3.5 million economic impact.
Desjarlais’ organizing committee plans to submit an application to the City of Prince George in January to help with infrastructure costs.
“We’ve got a good indication from the city that they’re going to be working with us. [Spruce City Stadium] is ballpark-ready, but we’ll have to make alterations to some of the other parks in terms of backstops, fencing, seating, washroom facilities and more of the blasé kind-of items, but we’ll be looking to make sure that everybody’s looked after when the event is here.”
Tournament dates are slated for Aug. 1-3, 2020.
The 2016 edition of the tournament saw nearly 15 Prince George and area teams compete, according to Desjarlais.
If the event is deemed successful, he says there are plans to swing a bid for the 2021 or 2022 Canadian Senior Championships.