A change in the format this year brought a younger demographic to the Gord Closson Oldtimers Fall Classic softball tournament last month, and many of the newcomers to the long-running event were in awe of the tournament, the park where it is played, and the sense of community, organizers reported.
The tournament at Glenora’s Waldon Park has a 52-year history of helping the Cowichan Valley, and that legacy continued this year as organizers shared the proceeds with the families of Avery Oye and Mark Olson, and the Clements Centre’s Sundrops Centre.
Oye was an 11-year-old minor baseball player who died in a car accident in Mill Bay in July. Olson died suddenly in March 2020 at the age of 39, leaving behind a wife and two young sons. The Sundrops Centre supports children 0-5 with a variety of services to aid in their development.
“We are so grateful for the support of the Cowichan community and extend our heartfelt thanks to Gord Closson and Joe Di Lalla for choosing to support children in Cowichan through the Gord Closson Classic tournament,” said Dianne Hinton, the CEO of the Clement’s Centre for Families. “This donation makes a huge impact in the lives of children who access services through the Sundrops Centre, helping them to thrive in all aspects of life. Thank you to everyone who donated and supported this tournament, and to the dedicated community members who put in the work to raise funds for this community.”
While the tournament attracted several younger players and spectators, the familiar faces were back, including Irene and Ray Ellison, who were recognized during award presentations for their longtime support of the event. Irene received the Chris Dame Most Positive Person Award, and Ray was given the Ron Dill Most Inspirational Player Award. Both were rendered speechless and emotional by the honours.
“Irene told me they’ve been married over 60 years and she’d never seen him drop a tear before,” tournament namesake Gord Closson said.
Other awards this year included
• Favourite umpire: Shawn Miller
• Wilky Weekend Warrior: Matty Hawryluk
• Team Participation Award: Panthers
• Mr. O’Keefe Most Sportsmanlike Player: Tyler Renton
• Brent Harrison Memorial Young Buck Trophy: Dean LeLand
• Shawnigan Merchants Last Place: Trailor Park Boys
• Team MVPs, Ortho Division: Mark James (Panthers), Crystol Corby (Al-iggers), Phil Walmsley (Stingers), Randy Manhouse (Huge in Japan), Mike Hladky (Trailor Park Boys), Eric Mansueti (Chiefs)
• Team MVPs, Fastball Division: Mark James (Mark James Excavating), Gord Alberg (Parksville Red Sox), Dylan McKinlay (Rangers), Josh Gray (Mits), Cody Hill (Longwood Brewing), Bricklen Anderson (L.T. Consulting)
The new format introduced this year included six teams in two divisions: fastball and ortho. All six teams in both divisions qualified for the playoffs, but in both cases, the top two playoff seeds met in the finals. In the fastball division, L.T. Consulting topped the Rangers in the final, and in the ortho division, the Chiefs defeated the Al-iggers.
Plans are already in the works for next year’s tournament on Aug. 19-21, and Discovery Honda is already working on a vehicle for next year’s raffle.
“That’s a big part of the funds we are able to give away,” organizer Joe DiLalla said of the car raffle.