Despite declining numbers, participants still love to play
The sport once referred to as underhand ball or softball became known as fastball during the 1970s.
These days, the quick-action pastime is often referred to as fastpitch. Although registration numbers have decreased drastically in recent years, fastpitch still attracts some of our young athletes. Such is the case with Colchester County residents Colby Lanceleve, Cole Baker and Dennis Nolan, who play midget ball for the East Hants Expos.
“Fastpitch is something I love playing,” said Lanceleve, 17, of Stewiacke. “It can be very competitive and I have enjoyed the experience of getting to play at the national level. It’s a fast game with great reaction time. I really enjoy it.”
Combining fastpitch with a vigorous conditioning schedule, Lanceleve wants to keep in top shape for when the hockey season rolls around. He was an outstanding rookie with the Truro Bearcats of the Maritime Junior Hockey League last season.
“I’m in the gym or doing field sessions five days a week,” said Lanceleve. “I work out regularly with Matt Brenton, Alex Anthony and Connor Baker. Besides these workouts, playing fastpitch ball really helps.”
Lanceleve said he is already thinking ahead to August when the Expos will attend the Canadian Midget Fastpitch Championship in Fredericton and later in the month the Bearcats open their 2012-13 training camp.
Baker, also 17 and a Stewiacke native, developed an interest in fastball “probably before I was 10.”
“I loved going to Elk Park in Brookfield and watching senior ball,” Baker said. “That was real good ball and the Elks had some good ball players, guys like Darren Retson, Andrew Roop and Brooks VanTassell.”
Baker played peewee and bantam before joining the East Hants midget team last season. “I like the fast action,” Baker said. “You can get right in the game. Everything happens quickly. Our team has been practicing since April to prepare for nationals.”
Baker likes what he sees with his team through seven exhibition games to date. “We have added a couple players to go with a strong group of returning players,” he said. “We have picked up Luc Lavers, a pitcher from Truro, along with Colby Anthony. We should have a good pitching staff.”
Nolan, 17, of Upper Stewiacke, can remember when a lot more fastball was played. “It seems that a lot of people don’t want to commit to the sport these days,” said Nolan. “Soccer has taken some players, others drop out of sports for whatever reason.”
Nolan said the team aspect of fastpitch appeals to him. “It’s great spending time with your teammates and working together to accomplish a goal. When another player gets down, there’s always someone close by who tries to pick him up.”
Nolan, a goaltender with last season’s Nova Scotia minor midget hockey champion Truro S. Allan and Sons Bearcats, enjoys both the physicality and competition of fastpitch.
“We finished without a medal last year,” Nolan said. “We’re setting a much higher goal this time around.”
Nolan said the team is well coached by Terry Anthony and his assistants Chris Hopewell and Matt Anthony.
During the 1970s, the Fundy Regional Umpires Association serviced 129 teams and this did not include minor ball.
“Today, we service 16 teams and this includes four high school teams,” Don Hazelton said. “We have gone from having 63 umpires registered down to 13 available umpires.”
Hazelton, of Brookfield, who has umpired for more than 50 years with the local umpire’s association, does not like what he sees.
“I don’t like to be negative but it’s a fact of life,” Hazelton said. “There’s no minor ball in Brookfield and very few teams in the area compared to a few years back. Never did I ever imagine that fastball would face such a decline. It’s a great sport and I’m happy when I hear of young athletes playing the game.”
TAGLINE: Lyle Carter’s sports column appears every Saturday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 673-2857.