By Kelsey Verboom
Two valley baseball teams will take to the field this week to defend their titles as national champs — this time wearing uniforms emblazoned with a special tribute.
When the Shuswap First Nation’s Arrows and A’s baseball teams compete in Cranbrook at the Canadian National Fastball Championships on August 3rd-6th, the name Randy Martin will be on the backs of every player’s jersey.
Last year the two teams won top spot in their respective categories of Men’s (under 40) and Masters at the national tournament in Winnipeg, earning both of them the Canadian Native Fastball Champions title.
This year’s teams will step to the mound missing one important team member, Randy Martin, who died unexpectedly in May this year. Randy had a prominent love for the sport of baseball, and was one of the teams’ top advocates and organizers. He was also a councillor for the Shuswap First Nation Council, helping lead his community as well as his fellow ballplayers.
“His love for baseball ran deep. He played ball, or was a part of it in other ways, his whole life,” said Randy’s father, Dean Martin. “When you look at him in his pictures, they’re all about him and ball.”
Randy dreamed of his band hosting the national championship tournament, which has finally become a reality.
“We’re trying to fulfill his dreams and do something he didn’t get to do,” he younger brother, Richard, said. Dean added, chuckling, “It’s still Randy’s team. I’m sure he’ll still have the final say about how things turn out.”
The Shuswap First Nation originally wanted to hold the tournament in Invermere, but the number of teams participating were just too many for the town’s baseball facilities to hold. Seventy teams will instead lace up their cleats in Cranbrook, but Dean said the people and businesses of Invermere have been extremely supportive of the event.
At the tournament’s opening ceremonies on August 3rd, 6 p.m., there will be a special tribute to Randy. With the help of Randy’s partner, Sierra Stump, his 6-year-old son Gage will throw the first pitch of the tournament. The Arrows and A’s, who have been placing in the top two in tournaments they’ve entered this year, will play back-to-back following the start of the festivities.
“It’s going to be so exciting, but also so emotional,” Dean said. “Without Randy there’s a huge gap in the family of Native ball in North America, let alone in his own family and on the reserve.”
Anyone is welcome at the Cranbrook tournament to cheer on the hometown teams. Games will be played at the Moir ballparks and the Kinsmen Quads.