Prince George wins bid for 2016 Canadian Native Fastball championships

It's been 21 years since Prince George welcomed the best native fastball players in the country.

But the drought on the diamond will end next summer when the city plays host to the 2016 Canadian Native Fastball championships, tentatively slated for the B.C. Day long weekend from July 30 to Aug. 1. Games will be held at a variety of parks, including Spruce City Stadium.

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The tournament will feature as many as 70 teams competing in four divisions - men's, masters (40-and-over), junior (21-and-under) and women's.

"We're definitely looking forward to hosting it," tournament chair Harley Desjarlais said Monday. "We expect there will be between 1,200 to 2,500 people here from across Canada, including players, sponsors and their families."

Desjarlais, who's been involved with the sport for the last 25 years, credits the hard work of Randy Potskin and Chad Ghostkeeper (who've also been involved in fastball as long-time players, coaches and organizers) for putting a successful bid together by Aug. 14 after discovering during the 2015 national championships in Manitoba that no bids had been submitted for 2016.

The Canadian Native Fastball Association alternates the national championships from province to province and it was B.C.'s turn to host in 2016.

Prince George beat Vernon for the right to host next summer.

The organizing committee, which includes Desjarlais, Potskin and Ghostkeeper, currently has six members but Desjarlais said that number will grow so areas such as transportation, accommodations and volunteers can be overseen.

The Treasure Cove Hotel has come on board as the official host hotel.

"A lot of us (on the committee) have been involved at the senior A level of Canadian championships," said Desjarlais, adding at least 100 volunteers will be required. "We're seeing involvement in the long-term of families and younger kids playing in the North American Indigenous Games and the Prince George double-A Knights (baseball). We'll have a representative team (Lenny's Selects) in the junior division that will position kids in the future. We'll probably have a competitive team in the men's division too."

He predicts there will be a lot of other teams from Prince George on the field next year and has heard that between 14 and 15 aboriginal teams within a 400-kilometre radius of the city will be here.

Prince George last hosted the national tournament in 1994 after the Lumber Kings won the 1993 title. That was back in the day when the defending champions would host the tournament the following year.

The Lumber Kings/River Kings won eight national native men's fastball titles and seven North American Indigenous crowns in the 1990s and early 2000s. As players got older, they retired or got involved in the game elsewhere.

Athletes from Prince George are selected to compete with other high-calibre teams that succeed at the national level.

Those who want to get involved in organizing the tournament can contact Desjarlais by email, harleydj@shaw.ca

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