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Inaugural baseball tournament a home run in Rankin Inlet

The future of baseball in Rankin Inlet seems bright after the community wrapped up its first fast pitch tournament earlier this month.

The game has been growing in popularity ever since Holly Mercer and her partner Robert Kabvitok started up a youth team a few years ago.

The championship Royals pose for a team photo after they won the first community baseball tournament in Rankin Inlet on Aug. 9. Front row: Norman Okalik, James Merrit, David Clark, Carlo Issaluk. Back row: Wendel Kaludjak, Mark Wyatt, Wager Tatty, Chad Graham, Brett Fotheringham, Lee Kreelak.
photo courtesy of David Clark

The team, which is planning on travelling to Yellowknife for a tournament this year, wanted to get some practice before leaving.

That’s when they approached Connor Faulkner to see if he could put together a men’s team for them to play an exhibition tournament against.

Faulkner reached out to his friend Sidney Nichol to organize a team. After speaking with David Clark, it was suggested they try and organize a men’s tournament to see if there was any interest.

We thought it would be best to draft a format where everyone over the age of 14 could put their name in and be guaranteed a spot on a team,” said Faulkner.

In the end there were enough players to draft three teams, in addition to the U-16 team, which entered on its own.

Robert Kabvitok asked if they could enter a team for their own personal development. We ended up allowing them to do that,” said Faulkner.

The tournament featured a round robin style play followed by two semi-finals. Nichol said the competition was tight throughout the weekend.

Every game had excitement and not every game was a blowout. There were guys who didn’t even know they can play and they ended up begin really good,” he said.

By the end of the round robin, the Royals were in first place, followed by the U-16 team, The Stealers, then the Yankees in third, with the Bad News Bears in fourth.

In the semi-finals the Royals, who were undefeated in round robin play, ended up besting the Bad News Bears.

At one point in the game it could have gone either way but the Royals ran away with it in the end,” said Nichol.

The other semi, featuring the U-16 team against the Yankees, ended up being the most exciting game of the weekend. Nichol said the game was intense from the start and it continued to heat up as it went on.

The intensity in that game was insane,” said Nichol, who played for the Royals. “We didn’t expect that with a bunch of 16-year-olds.”

The game remained close through the first few innings but then things started to get heated. One player from the U-16 team ended up getting tossed from the game by umpire Dave Wiseman.

The emotions were so high that I think the kids burnt out,” said Nichol.

Both Nichol and Faulkner credited Wiseman for making some tough calls and dealing with some intense situations over the weekend.

Players didn’t always agree with the calls he made. He took crap all weekend. He got heckled a lot but he stood his ground,” said Faulkner. “Kudos to him because it wasn’t easy.”

The Stealers ended up dropping the bronze medal game to the Bad News Bears after their loss.

In the final, the first-seeded Royals put on a pitching clinic against the Yankees. It was another tight game to start. The Yankees managed to score a few runs in the first inning but Lee Kreelak’s pitching kept them off the score sheet for most of the game.

The Royals’ Wendel Kaludjak hit a home run midway through the game that brought three people home. In the end the team ran away with the game and ended up winning 13-3.

We just couldn’t keep up with the pitching they had,” said Nichol. “We didn’t expect someone to come in with that amount of skill.”

Not only was the tournament a success on the field, it also drew large crowds despite cold foggy weather on the final day.

Nichol said the organizers hope to run the tournament again next year. Ideally they would like to open it up to the rest of the Kivalliq region and invite teams from other communities.

It looks like this is going to be an annual event,” said Nichol.