The journey, not necessarily the destination, was what made the Whonnock Warriors' experience extra special at the slo-pitch nationals in Gander, Nfld.
The local over-40 men's team ended up fifth in the masters intermediate division at the Canadian championship tournament that ran Aug. 1-5. They won two games, lost four, and came away with what manager/third baseman Don Fitzgerald described as "a trip of a lifetime."
"It was the greatest time 15 buddies could have in eight days," added player/coach Bruce MacDonald. "The greatest ever. We got to play some ball and have fun... it was perfect."
The competition in Gander was, as expected, a level above what the Warriors are used to seeing.
"They were stacked teams," MacDonald said.
The Whonnock squad qualified for nationals by winning the SPN provincial championships last August at South Surrey's Softball City.
The team came out of nowhere to capture the B.C. title.
"When you're ranked in 12th place out of 16, and we show up and pull out the Warrior pride... we beat 'em all," MacDonald said.
The Warriors - whose players range in age from 55-year-old Les Hobson to 42-year-old Mitch McNicol - have been together since 2006 but for many members, their connection spans decades.
"We're from Whonnock and when you're from Whonnock, you have a lot of friends," MacDonald said, adding, "There are people on this team I've known for over 40 years."
Winning is extra special but playing with your buddies is what draws MacDonald to the sport.
"It's good friends, good times, and good baseball," he said.
"And it's in that order."
Most of the players grew up playing baseball, which helped establish the foundation for their slo-pitch skills.
More recently, the Warriors took part in what MacDonald described as "extra-curricular stuff" to build their athleticism, including additional batting instruction and training at the Carlson Gracie
Brazilian jiu-jitsu mixed-martial arts club in Maple Ridge.
"It helps us get into shape, strength training," MacDonald said.
As many as 10 Warriors at a time worked out at the local MMA gym, improving their conditioning and core strength.
"We did weightlifting, running, jumped on a Bosu ball to keep our balance," he said. "For 40 year olds we're in good shape, yes we are."
The Warriors were looking to defend their provincial championship title this past weekend at Softball City.
"We always go in to win," Fitzgerald said, a couple days prior to the tournament. "But at the end of the day we want everybody on the team to have a good time and have fun."
They ended the tournament in fourth place.
"It was really, really good," said MacDonald on Monday.
"It was exciting to move up from intermediate to competitive. We're sitting in fourth in provincials," he added.
Asked if there are any ringers on the team, MacDonald jokingly said, "Well, I am! But we picked up a few guys from [the] Whonnock/Haney area, Webster's Corners, who are good ball players and longtime friends." The Warriors are Bob Crockett, Brent Hayes, Bruce MacDonald, Dale Mcildoon, Darren de Groot, Don Fitzgerald, Ed Gendron, Greg Forster, John Hoggan, Keith Adamson, Larry Crocker, Les Hobson, Mitch McNicol, Rob Norrie, Robert Popadiuk, Shane McCourt, Stephen Wyllie, and Troy Regan.
@ Copyright 2013