Wendy Malkin, Gold Glove
Nothing truly announces the arrival of summer like the crack of the bat, the smack of ball hitting mitt, and the delightful heckles emanating from the beer gardens as another season of Yellowknife’s favourite summer sport, Slo-Pitch, takes off. With over 50 teams signed up in the four divisions of the adult mixed league every year, Slo-Pitch is easily one of the most popular sports in the North. If you’ve never experienced the joy of rounding the bases under the gorgeous summer sun, I highly recommend finding yourself a team. For those of you new to town, I’m sure you’re thinking to yourselves, “I wonder who the top dog is? Who do I have to knock off the pedestal to take my rightful place as king of the hill?” Well, that’s why I’m here, to give your first lesson in YK Slo-Pitch 101.
As Slo-Pitch is a multi-faceted sport requiring a variety of skills, it’s easier to break down the best players by category. And there’s no better way to do that than by using Major League Baseball’s awards categories.
Weaver & Devore
Any talk of the best of the best in YK Slo-Pitch has to begin with the team that’s been dominating the diamond longer than some players have been alive. Of course, I’m talking about Weaver & Devore. Teams like the Elks Stars of Destiny, the McEHggers, and the Black Knight have put up the occasional challenge to their dominance, but no one has managed to sustain the same level of excellence. The franchise may have changed sponsorship from Coke to Weaver, but the winning has never changed. Since forming in the mid-90’s, the team has won every title imaginable and brought home 30+ tournament and league titles. The team is, without a doubt, the cream of the crop of YK Slo-Pitch and its players are found throughout this list.
Cy Young Award
I’m sure some of you are scoffing and laughing at the thought of pitching being important in Slo-Pitch. All you really do is just lob the ball across the plate, right? Wrong. Pitching is one of the most underappreciated aspects of the game and routinely makes the difference between a championship squad and a second-place finish. The top pitchers in the league paint the corners, field any ball hit up the middle, and most importantly, don’t walk anyone. Our winner could easily be in the running for the Gold Glove, as well. His fielding from the mound is unmatched and his ability to make the ball dance is legendary. Troy is a pitcher without equal. While he may be in semi-retirement these days, preferring to spend his weekends on the lake, there’s still some magic in his right arm, and we’re all hoping for one last swan song from the master this summer.
Our runner-up in the Cy Young category is here for her talents in all areas of the game. Shannon is known as “Pounder” for three reasons:
1. Her ability to pound the ball to all fields when she’s batting.
2. Her ability to pound the strike zone with pitch-after-pitch on the mound.3. Her skills in the beer gardens during tournaments.
The first two skills have her on the list of best pitchers in town, but the third skill may be the reason she’s so beloved throughout the league.
Gold Glove Award
Our top Gold Glove winner has owned the right side of the infield for Weaver & Devore for decades. Don’t let her youthful appearance fool you, Wendy is a veteran who has been vacuuming up ground balls as an All-Star at both second and first base since the 90’s. If you hit a ground ball anywhere in her direction, there’s no point attempting to run to first, Wendy’s going to get you out.
This guy may have won the award were it not for two factors:
1. He left town last summer to move back to The Rock.
2. He spent years boosting his ego by playing in the D-league.
Known as the “Newfie Ozzie Smith,” Davey-Bye had hands as soft as silk and a cannon arm. Ask the ladies who played first base for him, and I’m sure they’ll tell you their lives flashed before their eyes on more than one occasion when Dave unloaded to first.
Silver Slugger Award
As the legendary Greg Maddux once said to Tom Glavine, “Chicks dig the long ball.” Nobody in YK Slo-Pitch takes this phrase to heart more than Adam, whose moonshot homeruns are mythical. Legend has it he once hit a home run over the fence, over the park beyond the fence, over the road beyond the park, over the yard beyond the road, and over the house beyond the yard. Some say it still hasn’t landed. During his prime, tournament organizers stopped having home-run derbies during skills competitions and just gave him the award. He is a beast among men.
Quite honestly, there’s no one who comes close to hitting the ball as far, and as often, as Adam does. That said, there is no shortage of long-ball hitters, from Scott Galusha and his pretentious home-run trot, to Chris Pedersen and his hideous ball uniforms, to Dwayne Simmons and his illegal bat, to Ryan Sheppard and his beautiful moustache, there are a number of sluggers vying for second best.
Most Valuable Player
Mike ‘The Wizard’ Mathison
Despite recently turning 40, this guy is still one of the best all-around athletes in the North; a dominant presence on all types of courts. If athletic talent is a necessity, The Wiz should be your first-overall pick. The local YK high school legend has turned into the city’s best multi-sport athlete, and nowhere are his skills on display quite as brilliantly as on the ball diamond. For years the best shortstop in town, in recent years The Wiz has seamlessly transitioned to centrefield, where he tracks down any ball hit in his vicinity and routinely throws out baserunners with uncanny accuracy. His ability to hit the ball anywhere he wants, including over the fence, makes him impossible to defend against. His game is without weakness and it’s this all-around talent level that makes him YK’s best.
Dana and Tehnille Gard
Speaking of talent on both sides of the ball, the runners-up for MVP also excel in every aspect of the game. These sisters have only been in the league for a couple of years, but already their feats on the field are talked about with awe, consistently embarrassing shallow-playing outfielders by crushing it over their heads and, defensively, making the extraordinary look routine. Despite their young age, Dana and Tehnille are two of the best players in town. They definitely have the right genes being born to world-class fastball pitcher, Paul Gard, and having spent their formative years at the ballpark is paying dividends now. Given their skill level and age, these two sisters should be battling for MVP awards for years to come.
There you have it, the best of the best. If you want to see them in person, sign up for a team at www.yellowknifeslopitch.com and join one of the funnest summer sports leagues in town. Or, if that’s not your style, come down to the beer gardens during a tournament and enjoy a beverage while watching these athletes display their skills. Either way, hopefully I’ll see you at the diamond this summer.