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A look at minor ball in Brookfield

Brookfield Elks U14 players, Bob Henderson, left, Braden Cornelius, Michael Chase, Colby Brown and Wyatt Countway.
Brookfield Elks U14 players, Bob Henderson, left, Braden Cornelius, Michael Chase, Colby Brown and Wyatt Countway. - Lyle Carter

Earl McKenna was a fine sportsman, a proven umpire

It’s been approximately seven years since the Brookfield Elks minor ball program was revamped. Under the leadership of Brooks vanTassell, Chris and Amanda

Cornelius, and others, more than 100 kids now enjoy playing fastpitch ball during the summer at historic Elk Park.

The players are from such places as Brookfield, Hilden, Alton, Stewiacke and Upper Stewiacke. Truro is also represented. Older players are charged a fee of $50 – the

younger boys and girls of summer pay $30.

Last season, the Brookfield Elks U12 team served notice that the local program is moving forward. The team, coached by Cornelius, vanTassell and Casey Maguire,

made a strong showing at the Eastern Canadian fastpitch championship in O’Leary, PEI.

“We advanced to the finals and actually lost out by one run to East Hants for the championship,” Cornelius, 42, of Brookfield, said. “It was a good year for our under 12 Elks team. Actually, we had three under 12 Elks teams last year.”

Cornelius, a former 15-year catcher and infielder with Elks intermediate and senior fastball teams, is the coach of this season’s Brookfield Elks U14 team. The assistant coaches are Stephen Henderson, Jeff Sullivan and Brad Sutherland.

“We have about 13 players,” said Cornelius. “This is our first season playing in under 14. It’s been going pretty good, the players are really interested.”

With a number of Nova Scotia sports associations overseeing league play, the Elks play in a five-team league which includes two strong East Hants teams, West Hants and Antigonish.

“It’s a hard job to grow the sport (fastpitch) and compete against other sports,” Cornelius pointed out. “It’s great to see a guy like Gumby (Chris Hopewell) and the people in East Hants doing such a great job for fastpitch ball.”

The Elks start their competitive teams at U10. Cornelius coaches one U10 team, he is assisted by Mark Kennedy and Craig White. A second U10 team is coached by vanTassell and Sullivan. The U12 team is coached by vanTassell, Maguire and Peter Matheson.

“We have a number of coaches doubling up, this makes coaching a big commitment. It seems to be easier to find people who will help verses people who will run a team.

Presently, we are looking for people to help with U8. It’ll come together I’m sure, the parents will help us out.”

During visits to Elk Park, we continue to hear positive comments on the condition of the facility. Donald “Pibby” Henderson, the longtime caretaker, has the grounds in tremendous shape.

And, what adds to the exciting summer snapshot – is seeing outstanding young ball players hitting the ball, running the bases and pulling off fielding gems in

the field. It’s perhaps best described as ‘uplifting.’

* * * *

Earl McKenna, who passed away June 9 at age 75, had a long sports involvement. The Truro native certainly had a passion for baseball, especially umpiring. He first umpired baseball at age 12; it was a commitment that would span more than four decades.

In 1965, McKenna helped form the Bible Hill Little League – he assisted the grounds crew, kept score, he was an assistant coach to Jack Dale and he umpired. There are numerous umpiring milestones we could reflect on.

He called the balls and strikes during the 1967 Nova Scotia Intermediate A Baseball Championship series between Londonderry Ironclads and Springhill Fencebusters.

McKenna was the Fundy Regional Baseball Association umpire in chief for a number of years and in 1981 he umpired the Canada Summer Games in Thunder Bay, Ont. McKenna became supervisor of umpires for Baseball Nova Scotia in 1984 and in 1985, he served as supervisor of umpires during the Canadian Senior Baseball Championship.

It would be interesting to research how many games McKenna umpired over the years, up to his retirement in 2001.

On a personal note – a fond memory regarding EarI. In 1989, Mr. Kool Radiator Juniors (whom I supported) won the Maritime Junior Baseball Championship, defeating a much bigger team (physically), Newcastle, N.B. Truro players stepped their play up, the coaching staff – Gerry Hale, Glenn Matheson and Earl McKenna made great decisions.

The win left a very special memory.

We extend our sympathy to Earl’s daughter Sara (the capable chair of the TSHS), Earl’s son Christopher and family.

Lyle Carter’s sports column appears weekly in the Truro News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 902-673-2857.

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