Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

BIG WEEK AHEAD – USA pitcher Collin Hopkins launches a pitch towards home plate during an exhibition game versus the Czech Republic in Whitehorse, Tuesday.

Event will showcase world’s up-and-coming stars

After years of preparation, the big day is finally here.

By Marcel Vander Wier on July 11, 2014

After years of preparation, the big day is finally here.

The 10th ISF Junior Men’s World Softball Championship begins today in Whitehorse.

Ten teams from five continents will spend the next week battling for the world title.

Alongside host Canada and defending champion Argentina, eight other countries will be represented.

Australia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and the USA will all vie for softball glory.

The event will run July 11 to 20 with all games played at the Pepsi Softball Centre.

The tournament marks the introduction to the national program for the world’s top young players, said Ron Radigonda, executive director of the International Softball Federation.

“This is the starting point for the national program,” he said during a sit-down interview this morning at the Westmark hotel. “These kids are in the pipeline now.”

While softball’s heyday may be a few years removed from its glory years – which included Olympic involvement – it continues to be “right there” in terms of team sports, said the 67-year-old from Oklahoma City.

The softball federation continues to hold steady with 130 member countries, and is gaining momentum from jurisdictions such as Africa and Latin America.

“You’re always concerned about keeping your sport relevant,” Radigonda admitted. “All sports, in some respects, have had drops in participation, particularly because of the baby boomers. Age-eligible people kind of disappeared.”

Still, softball is maintaining itself well globally, according to Radigonda.

At last year’s world men’s championship in Auckland, N.Z., for instance, all of the world’s regions were represented.

“Except Antarctica,” Radigonda quipped. “Penguins haven’t learned how to play yet.”

Team Canada arrived in Whitehorse yesterday afternoon following a five-day training camp in Vancouver, and immediately took to the field for a doubleheader against the USA and Japan.

Head coach Jim Jones said his team is beginning to gel after its initial selection camp in Brampton, Ont., just two months ago.

“The kids are all buying in,” he said. “We’ve had some good successes, and also some periods where we’ve needed to play better.

“But when they don’t play together, you’re just trying to get them all on the same page. Hopefully we’ve got that done.”

The team will be led by the sole returnee from the 2012 championship, Taylor Schubada.

The 19-year-old catcher from Irma, Alta., helped Canada to a fourth-place finish in Parana, Argentina, and will serve as one of the team captains this time around.

“He will be a guy who we will be relying on heavily from his experience in Argentina,” said Jones.

The team, which is staying at the Yukon College dormitories, is made up of six Ontario players, four from Saskatchewan, three each from Alberta and Quebec, and one from Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Canuck squad will open their tournament with a game versus the Czech Republic tonight at 7:30.

“The boys are excited,” said Jones. “I was here in 2008 as an assistant coach, and Whitehorse did such a fantastic job. The parks look fantastic.

“I’ve told all the boys: ‘You’ll be rock stars up here. The people will want to talk to you.’ And I said ‘Make sure you go out of your way to talk to them.’ It’s pretty exciting for them.”

In 2008, two African countries also participated in the Whitehorse tournament, which included 12 teams in total.

Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis welcomed all visitors to the Yukon capital via a press release yesterday.

“I applaud the athletes from Canada and other countries on their participation in this championship,” Curtis stated.

“The city extends a warm welcome to al visitors. We are pleased to host such a world-class event in our community.”

Despite a brief early-morning shower, the two diamonds are in pristine condition, George Arcand told the Star this morning.

Arcand is the chair of the tournament’s organizing committee.

“Everything’s on track,” he said. “We’ve worked hard to get here.

“We’re all glad it’s going to start. We’re all real anxious to have the ballplayers on the field.”

Radigonda called the Yukon’s organizing group one of the best in the business.

“They’re one of the premier organizing committees in the world,” he said. “They have a great team here, and that’s why we keep coming back.

“George and his team really understand the importance of the quality of the event they’re putting on.”

Radigonda also said the Pepsi Softball Centre stacks up with some of the best complexes in the world.

The round robin tournament will wrap up Friday, and will be followed by a championship round.

The top four teams will advance to the page playoff round while the bottom six will compete in a consolation playoffs.

Besides Canada, Jones has listed Argentina, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the U.S. as the six teams with the best chance of claiming this year’s crown.

Comments (2)

Up 0 Down 0

Jorge on Jul 14, 2014 at 10:53 pm

There is a link where we can watch the game I will appreciate thank you

Up 4 Down 0

Bob Otto on Jul 12, 2014 at 8:04 am

Thank you providing great coverage; much appreciated from fast-pitch fans in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.