Softball team gives Ontario kid a summer to remember
The Kelly's Pub Junior Canadians came home with a bronze medal from the recent national softball championship, but left a youngster from Ontario a summer to remember for the rest of his life.
The provincial representatives at the Canadian junior men's tournament in Owen Sound, Ont., made a lasting impression on 13-year-old Noah Solinger, and on his dad, Frank, as well.
The Junior Canadians have a reputation as winners on the field. They compete to win championships and medals. That's their main focus. They were the defending champs going into the 2013 tourney. Undoubtedly, some of their strength as a team comes from the tight-knit group that evolves into the sort of chemistry that makes for a winner.
And while the players' centre of attention is on winning a championship, they are not so caught up in themselves that they can't see what hanging out with their team might mean to a young boy who loves the game as much as they do.
Bat boys have a job to do and every team at a national junior softball tournament is assigned one to help out and do what's required.
They should be expected to be treated properly, but there's nothing obligatory about them becoming a part of a team. That is unless, the team makes you one of them.
That's the Kelly's Pub tradition. The players go out of their way to make their bat boys feel part of the team. And they go further than that. They make him feel like a buddy. Like a friend. A friend they care about.
"They made him feel like he belonged," said Frank Solinger, Noah's dad. "He felt like one of them from the get-go."
"They gave him a Kelly's Pub hat on the first day of the tournament. They played catch with him and let him warm up with them.
"They gave him high fives and patted his head before the games for good luck. They gave him money at the start of the tournament and more at the end.
They didn't have to do that
And Noah was included in the official team photo.
"In my books," added Solinger, "they were the best team in the tourney, not just talent-wise, but in so many other ways as well."
Solinger said the Newfoundland team went above and beyond anything he expected when it showed up at Noah's softball game one evening in Holland Centre, a very small town about a half hour drive from Owen Sound.
"Noah and the other parents couldn't believe that the entire team would come out to see him play and encourage him," said Solinger.
"Actually," noted Solinger, "one of the players couldn't make the trip because he was studying for an exam. The next day, he apologized profusely to Noah for not showing up.
"Can you believe that?"
Solinger, a former softball player who teaches high school physical education, choked up a little during the telephone interview when he talked about the team's kindness to his son.
"They're all class. Classy team. Classy players," he said.
Solinger said Noah works hard during the summer and cuts over a 100 cord of firewood to pay for his hockey in the winter. He's also been putting money away for his education since he was eight years old.
"Being the bat boy for Kelly's has been his best part of this summer, by far," said his dad.
Noah became so close to the players that he felt he should give back something.
He found out designated player/pitcher "Big Johnny" Doyle liked lake trout, so he showed up at one game with the fish and trimmings on a plate and enough food that could be shared with a teammate if he wished.
Doyle really likes lake trout. I mean he REALLY likes it, so he didn't share so much as he wolfed it all down and then went out and picked up a base hit.
Noah got a kick out of that.
At the end of the tournament, centre fielder Eddie Hefferman gave his team jacket to Noah who wore it at his next ball game.
His dad said his son will likely keep the hat and jacket for a long, long time,
They are mementos of a summer when a bunch of Newfoundland junior ball players at a national championship accepted him as one of the team...one of them. An equal.
It was as near to a perfect summer as any kid could wish for.
Still no word on a possible suspension for Canadian ball hockey player Justin Pender following an ugly incident at world ball hockey championship in early June at the Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay.
Pender, from St. John's, pummelled Czech Republic player Jan Bacovsky with a few seconds left to play in a game which the visitors won 5-1.
International Ball and Street and Ball Hockey Federation president George Gortsos maintains the incident is not being "swept under the rug."
"From what I understand he is not playing in Newfoundland and the Canadian Ball Hockey Association will not allow him to play in national events until a decision comes down from independent ISBHF committee.
"The fact is," said Gortsos,"he is not playing and a suspension is coming."
Pender took to Twitter to apologize for his actions shortly after the incident: "As a member of a team hosting an international event I should have set a higher standard of sportsmanship for myself but I did not and it reflected poorly upon my team who worked so hard for this competition," he said.
"Going forward, I will make every effort to prevent this from happening again by remembering how my actions have impacted myself and those around me. I will be setting a higher standard for myself and my actions in order to develop better sportsmanship."
Gortsos first told the Telegram that the organization's disciplinary committee "should have a final decision in a week or two."
That was in mid-June.