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John Cho Cup fastball under way at Spruce City Stadium

Eighteen teams gathering for three-day men's and women's tournament
22 Fastball Kyle Garnot change-up
Pitcher Kyle Garnot tosses a change-up to Burks Lake Redskins hitter Craig Patrick Sr., during the Spruce City Men's Icebreaker Tournament two weekends ago at Spruce City Stadium. Garnot will be throwing for STK Orioles of Chase this weekend at the John Cho Cup tournament. The 18--team event stats Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Spruce City Stadium.

The schedule-makers for this weekend’s John Cho Cup fastball tournament are smiling.

The chance of any rain delays in the 13-team men’s and five-team women’s events and basically non-existent, with nothing but sunshine and hot temperatures in the forecast the duration of the tournament at Carrie Jane Gray Park.

But fans coming to the ball diamonds to watch are advised to stay well-hydrated and bring your umbrellas to try to stay as cool as possible, with a high of 33 C expected Saturday and 27 C heat coming our way on Sunday.

The men’s tournament starts today at 3:30 p.m. when the Hitmen of Prince George take on the Interior Heat of Kamloops.

Team BC U-21, who played in the Spruce City Men’s Icebreaker Tournament two weeks ago and will form the basis of next year’s Canada Games team, are among the men’s team entries. The other men’s teams in action this weekend in the double-knockout event include Takla Lakers, STK Orioles (Chase), Driftpile (Alberta), Aiken Lake (Prince George), Saikuz Tigers (Vanderhoof), River Kings (Prince George), Burns Lake Timberwolves, Flying Dust Royals (Meadow Lake, Sask.), Marsh & Son Outlanz (Vernon), and Wyonne Nation (Burns Lake).

Men’s games start at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The final is slated for a 3:30 p.m. start on Sunday.

The women’s tournament starts Saturday at 9 a.m. with the Lucky Lu’s (Kamloops) taking on the Saints (Chase).  Falcon Contracting, the lone Prince George team in the women’s division, Driftpile, Aunties (Smithers-Vanderhoof) and Falcon Contracting (Prince George) are the other teams battling for the women’s crown. The women’s final is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.

“We’ve had good crowds at the park all season (in the Spruce City Men’s Fastball Association) and we’re expecting good crowds this weekend,” said tournament organizer Sheldon Bjorklund. “There’s a lot of interest in the game and lots of young players.

Bjorklund says there’s been a resurgence of popularity in fastball in the area, and the momentum of two new teams - Hitmen and FSR Glass Grays - joining the Spruce City Men’s Fastball Association last summer has carried over into this year. There’s talk of additional teams from Vanderhoof and Fort St. James joining SCMFA next year.

“The Grays (baseball team) coming to our league really helped us sharpen up the old boys, where we were letting things slide,” Bjorklund said. “Up until two or three years ago, we only had four teams for about two of three years and it was the same 65 people.

“Having two out-of-town teams this year (Saikuz and Burns Lake) sparks a lot of interest. Saikuz has a big fanbase that drives from Vanderhoof and there’s a lot of Burns Lake people that live here now that are down at the park.”

While the Canadian Native Fastball Championship has been put on hold for the past two years due to the pandemic Prince George remains on track to host the 80-team, 1,200-athlete event in 2022. The six-division championship was held in the city in 2016, 2006 and 1994.

Spruce City Stadium and the Spruce City Minor Boys diamonds will be used for this weekend’s tournament. Carrie Jane Gray Park is located near the intersection of Massey Drive and Carney Street.