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Men’s fastpitch was one of the first organized sports to return to action in Hay River after the reopening of outdoor recreational facilities, which had been closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Shawn Rowe of the Pirates takes a swing during the weekly game on July 9 of the Hay River Men’s Fastpitch League.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

The two-team league launched practices and games – each once a week – in mid-June, which was just a couple of weeks past its regular start time.

Terry Rowe, the president of the Hay River Men’s Fastpitch League, said it went through the process of drawing up a plan and submitting it to the Town of Hay River.

“And the town was OK with that and obviously the fields were ready because no one else was using them,” he said.

Rowe said things are a little bit different under the plan, especially with social distancing, but not so much the game itself.

“The biggest thing is that we just control how many people are at the field,” he said. “I mean our league is only two teams and we just kind of play whenever we want. So that’s not really too hard to control. There’s not going to be 50 people at the park at any given time because it’s just the two teams playing some pickup games.”

All the players must sign waivers that, if they travelled or will be travelling outside the NWT, they have to self-isolate, and also that they cannot play if they’re symptomatic.

“For game play itself, we haven’t made a whole lot of changes,” said Rowe. “There’s not much you can do with that.”

One of the main changes during games is that each team must use its own ball, he said. “We can’t share the same ball.”

Team huddles are also avoided and players don’t get changed in the dugouts.

“We’re supposed to just kind of keep our space,” said Rowe, adding that the players are also not supposed to hang out in the dugouts after games.

The fastpitch tradition of shaking hands after games also doesn’t happen now.

The plan was drawn up with assistance from NWT Softball and the Yellowknife Fastball League.

The Yellowknife league had rules in place because it also wanted to get going early, said Rowe. “So we just kind of piggybacked off them and worked with them, and took some of the ideas that they were going with and submitted it to Hay River.”

The Hay River Men’s Fastpitch League holds practices on Tuesdays and games on Thursdays.

It is made up of two teams – The Heat and The Pirates.

“It’s awesome to get back going,” said Rowe, who plays with The Pirates. “It’s been a long summer with nothing, and no sports on. The first practice I think we had 19 guys come out, which was awesome, and a lot of new faces. Since then, we’ve had a pretty strong commitment of players. The Heat have also had enough guys for games to play.”

On the July 11 & 12 weekend, the league also hosted a team from Fort Simpson for some exhibition games.

And it is working on hosting a tournament later this month, featuring the two Hay River teams and hopefully two or three teams from Yellowknife and the other from Fort Simpson.

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Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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