They went from having no season in its own league to hoisting a championship trophy as an expansion team in another.
The Prince George Grays won the 2020 Spruce City Men’s Fastball championship Friday (Sept. 11) in a game where most of the team had never even picked up a softball before.
Their roster was made up of baseball players, so while parts of fastpitch were easy to transition, there were some areas the green and white had to quickly master for the SCMFL.
“Just really happy for all of our guys that we ended up getting a huge win,” said Grays’ third-baseman Cole Waldie to PrinceGeorgeMatters following his team’s 15-10 victory over Falcon Contracting at Spruce City Stadium.
“We really missed playing [...] We struggled early on. Hitting was a really big adjustment. It’s a lot quicker coming down [low] instead of [high], that’s definitely a big difference. Defensively it’s a little bit quicker too, but I thought really adjusted well and actually, I thought we were the best defensive team in this league to be honest with you.”
COVID-19 had cancelled men’s baseball in the city, so members of the league reached out to the SCMFL in hopes of expansion.
Fortunately, organizers, as well as the fans, welcomed the Grays with open arms.
“The atmosphere around here, it’s a blast playing here,” said Grays’ first-baseman Jimmy Haviland of the experience this summer.
“I’m hoping our success over here carries over there just with the amount of speed of the pitches you get over here. We got a lot of great athletes over here, a lot of great hitters; it’s all positives for the boys.”
Haviland clobbered two home runs in the championship game, both two-run shots over the left-field wall, including one that finally got the Grays on the board after falling early to a 4-0 deficit through three innings.
Waldie also put one over the fence, his first home run of his ball-playing days, and ultimately turned out to be the game-winning drive as it brought in three runners for the 5-4 lead in the fourth.
The Grays would pull ahead to a commanding 11-4 lead in the fifth frame thanks to Haviland’s second homer of the evening and RBIs from Doug Clark and Josh Young.
“The ball was jumping tonight and the boys hit the ball great all night,” Haviland added.
“That was probably our most offensive game of the year and it was the right time of the year to do it. Getting the time down was the hardest because a lot of the boys throw hard in this league.”
Falcon Contracting, who were looking at redeeming themselves for losing the 2019 championship, responded with its own five-run stint in an effort to mount a comeback.
They got within two runs, but were unable to find more hot sticks in the bag for the final two innings, leaving pitcher Robbie Antoine with the loss.
Despite the deja vu moment, the 29-year-old is grateful the SCMFL was able to host a season, albeit shortened by a couple of weeks due to the pandemic and given the impressive outing from the Grays, he hopes more teams can join in the years to come.
“It’s completely ‘the more the merrier,’” Antonie said to PrinceGeorgeMatters following the loss, also noting fans are a big reason why more players should consider joining.
“If we can expand the league, I mean, the big thing is going to be pitching for most teams. We’ve had added a couple of out-of-town teams in previous years, but during COVID-19 and the whole travel thing, it’s been a tough season, but luckily they were able to come along and make it five teams to play against.”
Should COVID-19 continue into summer 2021, Waldie hopes the Grays can be invited to the SCMFL once again to defend their inaugural title.
“I think there’d be a very good chance for sure. If we’re able to play baseball, that may be a different story, but I guess time will tell with that.”
Up against the city’s best-of-the-best, the Grays also had to win a semi-final match prior to playing in the gold medal match last night as part of the league’s triple-knockout postseason format.
They prevailed 8-3 in five innings over the Sibola Electric Royals before ultimately defeating Falcon Contracting for the trophy.
Derek Caron got the win on the mound for the Grays in that contest.
Joel Walkey was credited with the finals’ victory after subbing in for Caron following two hit-by-pitches in the second inning.
Most of these men have never played fastball, but when the Prince George Sr. Baseball League was cancelled by COVID-19, they received an invite to join the SCMFL in hopes of inspiring others to play the game | #CityOfPG pic.twitter.com/TPDNqm30Xa— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) September 12, 2020