Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

THROWIN’ SMOKE – Minor pitcher Cache Leonard was on the mound recently during the wrap tournament for the minor fastball league.

Effort to raise level of local minor fastball is underway

Not too, too long ago, fastball in Whitehorse and across the Yukon used to be a mainstay in the local sports scene.

By Chuck Tobin on July 4, 2018

Not too, too long ago, fastball in Whitehorse and across the Yukon used to be a mainstay in the local sports scene.

There were leagues for both men and women. It wasn’t hard to find a weekend tournament.

There were the likes of George “the general” White, a pitcher with a wicked rise ball. And Margaret “Mugsy” Joe, the former NDP MLA and cabinet minister, who was equally comfortable on the mound.

Teams from here regularly represented the territory at national and western Canadian championships, teams like the Pepsi Jets.

Mike Tuton remembers them. He was their bat boy. His dad, Craig Tuton, was their coach with a reputation of the leaving the dugout to kick up dirt in the infield when he didn’t like an umpire’s call.

Those days of senior fastball are long gone. There was a short-lived but unsuccessful effort to revive the game here a few years back.

There’s now a burgeoning effort to strengthen the sport in the younger ranks.

Fastball has been played in minor softball here for decades.

Mike Tuton in his capacity as the new program coordinator for Softball Yukon wants to take it a step further.

Tuton wants to see fastball flourish again at the competitive level, beginning with development programs for both girls and boys which will hopefully jell into teams capable of again carrying the territory’s flag down south.

Softball Yukon held tryouts Tuesday night for girls aged 10 and under and up to U-14 at the minor ball fields next to the Pepsi Softball Complex, and 15 showed up.

Tryouts were also held yesterday for about 21 U-10 boys who turned out.

Tryouts for U-12 boys go ahead tonight beginning at 6 p.m. and for U-14 boys Thursday at 6 p.m.

If cuts have to be made they’ll be made next week or the week after, said Tuton.

He said the plan for this summer is to carry on the development program into mid-August under the guidance of himself and other local ball players who’ve already stepped up to the plate to volunteer.

Two women who recently moved to the Yukon both played fastball growing up and have come forward to assist with the girls program. Sarah Waltz will serve as the head coach and Amy Lank will serve as assistant coach, Tuton said.

He pointed out Waltz is a pitcher who played minor ball in Red Deer, Alta., where she grew up and later at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee.

“We really want to focus on the development part for these U-10s and by the time they are U-14, U-16, they’ll be ready to travel Outside to bigger competitions,” he said. “At the end of the day we are looking for elite players that can represent the territory at the end of the line.

“I have a good cast of coaches that are willing to step up and see where this things goes.”

Tuton said he does not know if the development of more minor players will result in a natural progression to the return of adult leagues supported by a self-generating local farm system.

He doesn’t want to look too far ahead.

“Right now I want to develop kids who have an interest in the game.”

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