A new summer sport is taking hold on the baseball diamonds in Rankin Inlet. Rankin has t-ball on offer for young children and softball for adults and youth, but up until this year the community didn't have the option of playing fastball.
That was until Robert Kabvitok and his wife Holly Mercer entered into the picture. The couple started organizing a few fastball games last summer because their son Kayden Mercer is obsessed with baseball. This year they decided to try and form a proper league.
“We talked about it one night that we should start a fastball league for them,” said Kabvitok. “There was t-ball but we wanted to try something Kayden wanted to do and that other kids want to do.”
When they were looking to form a league they approached longtime Rankin resident Dave Wiseman to see if he would help umpire and teach children the rules of the game.
“Robert and Holly got together and decided to get some t-shirts for the kids and get a league going and I didn't mind helping at all,” said Wiseman.
At the start of the season they had enough boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 14 to start a league with two teams: the Blue Jays and the Red Sox.
With just two teams in the league, Wiseman said the emphasis has been on teaching the players how to play. In order to keep things fun they have been playing back-to-back series with teams being even out in between.
The end of the first three-game series saw a major shake-up to help balance things out. That was followed by a five-game series with the new teams taking the plate. The Blue Jays ended up winning the first two games, but the Red Sox clawed things back in the next two, forcing a fifth game to decide it all. The Blue Jays got off to an early start but the Red Sox put up a 5 run inning in the middle of the game to keep things close. The final inning saw the Jays pull away to mercy the Red Sox and win the series.
Kayden, who was the pitcher for the winning team, said the league has meant a lot to him and his friends. His hopes is that one day he will be be able to play in the MLB.
“When I'm older I want to be an MLB player so I just got to work hard. The love of the game will hopefully take me there.”
Wiseman, who grew up playing high level baseball in Nova Scotia, said he couldn't believe how fast the kids have picked up the game.
“Considering they only started a year, year and a half ago it's amazing. Kids up here catch on so quick,” said Wiseman, whose 12- and 13-year-old boys each play on one of the teams.
The highlight of the summer for both teams was an official best-of-five tournament to end of the season, which was expected to take place on the weekend of July 20.
Wiseman said he hopes the popularity of fastball will continue to grow in Rankin so that one day they can take a team down south to compete in tournaments.