Minden ball player crowned province's best
A young ball player from Minden is beaming after winning the Slo-Pitch Ontario provincial championships this past weekend at the Slo-Pitch City and Southwest London Baseball Complex.
This past Sunday proved to be not just the perfect day in terms of weather, but also perfect for a provincial final win for Minden’s Tanner Hamilton, who will receive his championship sterling silver ring like his 11 Barrie Giants teammates in a few weeks.
Asked to join the team earlier in the season because of a friend that lives in the Barrie area, Hamilton took full advantage of the opportunity and the responsibility to perform under pressure for a team he said was deep with talent, power, and speed at the plate and in the field.
His experience, having played in all-provincials for his high school in hockey and badminton, helped him to focus and remain composed during the double-elimination tournament.
“I just tried to stay calm and relax and play my game,” he said. “I was honestly a little more nervous for this than I was for the finals for OFSAA [Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations] badminton.”
With participants in the tournament close to 28 on average, Hamilton said he was easily the youngest player at 20 years old, calling it “the biggest tournament I’ve ever won in my baseball career.”
The Giants won six straight on their way to the final in a tournament that boasted 54 teams. They won the final 14-9 on the strength of timely hitting and sound defence.
The calibre of competition was very high he said, leaving little room for error or second chances.
“When you get a chance to play you have to perform or you’re out of the game with 12 players [on the team],” he said. “We had guys, like one of our best, the number four and five hitters in the semi-finals went one for three. They were pulled in the fourth inning.”
The sport of slo-pitch is similar to softball or fastball, using a ball a little smaller than a grapefruit, except strikes are called when the high arcing pitch hits a mat where home plate would normally be. Also, there are no steals, but there are walks and a foul ball on a third strike is an out.
“A big part of it too is you got to keep the ball on the ground. Anything in the air is eaten up. Everything is caught. There are no errors at all,” he said.
The diamonds were bigger than what recreation slo-pitch players based in Minden would be familiar with. The 12 diamonds in London were larger with a measurement of 305 feet down the lines and 320 feet straightaway to centre field.
He’s not sure where his passion for the game came from.
“When I was younger I just got into it. I just wanted to play something new in the summer. I wasn’t much of a soccer guy back then so I just started playing. I can’t stop,” he said, laughing.
He grew up playing baseball in Lindsay at 11. The past three years he played fastball in the men’s league held in Fenelon Falls. Besides the adult recreation slo-pitch league in Minden, he has always played ball with his friends, whether it was batting practice or taking ground balls from his father at the Minden ball diamonds.
Overall, Hamilton was solid contributor in the tournament, getting 37 hits in 41 at bats, including three home runs, and four triples. In the field, he said, he helped turn eight double plays.
One of his home runs helped to give his team the lead with a three-run shot in their semi-final, which eventually led to the 20-12 win. He also went four for four and earned the MVP honours for the semi-final. The win gave the Giants a bye to the finals while their eventual final opponents needed to win back-to-back games.
The Giants earned their berth to the provincials by virtue of winning a provincial qualifying tournament earlier in the summer in Barrie.
This provincial title enables the Giants to be eligible for the nationals next summer with 25 teams from all over Canada. The winner will go to a world event.