Columnist Taylor Retter provides brief history of league
Forty years ago, a loaf of bread cost 30 cents according to Statistics Canada, the Happy Meal made its debut, and the Whitby Men’s Slo-Pitch League (WMSPL) played its first game.
The league was formed in 1979 with four teams, which represented the subdivisions they supported. They were Otter Creek, Pringle Creek, College Downs, and West Lynde.
Now, there are 12 teams and more than 180 players who meet up 38 times a season to catch up and play ball.
The season features a league tournament and is capped off by playoffs and an awards banquet.
But for some players, this league is about more than just showing up to see who can run the fastest, or hit the most home runs.
George Clay, pitcher, is the longest-tenured player in the WMSPL, and has been dutifully playing for 33 years.
He first gave it a shot after hearing from some friends about a league that was close to home and well-organized — but stayed for the quality of play and the connections he made.
“I’ve made a number of friends in the league. It doesn’t matter what team I play against; I have friends on every team in the league at this point,” Clay said.
And those connections span beyond just casual post-game conversations or friendly chirps across the field.
“One of the great pleasures I get is that both of my boys play on the team with me,” Clay said. “A number of the players on the team I’ve coached in their minor careers, and it’s a family. That’s what we say about these teams, they’re family.”
And while he says he only signs one-year contracts, Clay is waiting for his body to tell him to retire and plans to continue to play as long as he can with his friends and family … much to the chagrin of every team they have to play against.
He has nothing but praise for the league and wishes it success in the next 40 years.
“I hope it continues to grow the way it has, that it continues to be a fun place for people to enjoy the game. They just have to follow the pattern of what they’ve been doing for the last 40 years, and I have no doubt the success will continue.”
And how has the league changed since his first game?
“It’s gotten a lot younger, a lot more competitive. Everyone plays to win, but if you don’t win you can come back and play the next night and it’s all good,” he said.
And the players have been coming back, as evidenced by the fact the average player in the league has 8.6 years of WMSPL experience, and the league average age is 43.8. The Storm takes the trophy for longest average tenure, with 13.9 years, which makes sense considering their average player age is 47.
This year's teams were supported by: Awakened Life Chiropractic and Wellness Centre, Swiss Chalet, Broadway, All Organic GreenThumb, Hanet Plastics, IG Wealth, RE/MAX Crossroads Realty, Creative Harbour, Mantis Investigation Agency, CMD Electric Ltd. and Sidewalk360.
This year everyone received custom hoodies and the annual year-end banquet was elevated by a live band, “Two for the Show,” as players celebrated the 40th anniversary of the league.
Are you looking to be a part of the next 40 years of Whitby slo-pitch history? Head to www.wmspl.com for more information or to join a team for the 2020 season. Who knows, you might just become part of the next playoff championship team.
Written by: Taylor Retter who is a Carleton University journalism graduate and daughter of a player in the Whitby Men’s Slo-Pitch League. Written for Durhamregion.com