By Greg Price
It is a league which keeps growing in popularity and that popularity will be showcased this Saturday at Jets Stadium.
The Mennonite Slo-Pitch League has grown from 16 to 28 teams in a mere two years and four divisions of championship games will be showcased.
“It just keeps growing and growing,” said Frank Klassen, co-organizer of the league.
The Mennonite Slo-Pitch League has been in existence for eight years as teams compete on ball fields mainly in Enchant and Bow Island with rotating schedules of three divisions, playing on every third Sunday and teams organizing games themselves during the week.
Plenty of the new teams are spikes in the interest among youth for players between 13 to 20 years old.
“Because we have so many teams now, we can have more age divisions which allowed us to drop the age divisions. There’s a beginner division (13 years old – child division). It’s a lot safer that way that they don’t play with adults because there’s some guys that can hit the ball really hard and we don’t want the young kids involved in that,” said Klassen, adding youth teams have adult coaches and leaders.
“We had three divisions this year, and for the playoffs, we went to four divisions to even out the competition.”
Those playoff championships will be showcased on Saturday starting with the ‘D’ division all the way up to ‘A.’ Games go Saturday at Jets Stadium in Vauxhall with games at 3, 5, 7 and 9 p.m.
“It’s hard to say, but I expect a lot of people to be there,” said Klassen.
As in past years, the event will also serve as a fundraiser as spectators are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item for the Vauxhall Food Bank.
Also, burritos will be served at the stadium where funds raised will be donated to aid the flood victims in Houston.
The playoff/all-star games are now in their third year, where organizers pick a new charitable cause, with last year’s funds going to Prairie Gleaners in Medicine Hat.
It is a non-profit registered charity, existing to support Christian missions and aid organizations in the world. Ever aware of the overabundance of resources within the nation of Canada, the Prairie Gleaners Society helps support resource poor communities through the processing and packaging of food, materials and supplies that have been gleaned.
The Mennonite Slo-Pitch League has also served as fellowship in the culture which also gives a healthy alternative to youth instead of large Sunday gatherings where alcohol can be involved.
“It’s a church league where everyone comes together. This year, I noticed there was a team around my area where there were a couple of kids who were starting to get into the party scene and drinking quite a bit. They were forced to make a decision, either play in the league or continue partying and they joined the league (for the first time),” said Klassen.
Klassen grew up playing the game and is passing that knowledge on to youth.
“I have a love of the game. I enjoy competition and I have a young team myself. Just to see them develop has been great. I started three years ago with them and this year we are in the B’ division championship,” said Klassen.