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Slo-pitch sets sights on Guinness Book of Records

For the past 20-plus years, Squamish residents have been sliding, swinging and pitching in the Squamish Slo-pitch League.

For the past 20-plus years, Squamish residents have been sliding, swinging and pitching in the Squamish Slo-pitch League. Over the years, the league has grown from its humble beginnings with a few teams in the 1980s, to 34 teams and more than 600 players in 2004.

Perhaps the only noticeable change is the equipment used, because the teams are still made up of families and friends who enjoy the sport and a little friendly competition.

"Most of the teams in the league are groups of friends and families who stay together year after year," said league president Mike Chapman. "They just want to have fun and they're out there to have a good time."

There are some minor changes to the league this year. Instead of having four separate divisions (A,B,C and D), the teams have been categorized into three divisions - competitive, intermediate and beginner (A,B and C). For new teams entering the league, they are automatically placed in the C division regardless of their ability, and must stay there for one year.

Teams play a total of 20 regular season games, with a season-ending championship tournament wrapping things up at the end of July. League rules state that there must be at least six men and a minimum of four women per team.

Aside from player participation, community involvement also plays a large part in the ongoing success of the league, with numerous local businesses sponsoring teams. The Grizzly Pub in the Garibaldi Highlands sponsors five different teams.

"Ninety-five per cent of the teams are sponsored by local businesses," said Chapman. "It's great to have so much support from the business community."

League organizers and many teams are excited for the upcoming kick-off tournament simply known as the May long weekend tournament. Thirty-eight teams will descend upon Centennial Fields on Saturday (May 22), to compete against each other for slo-pitch supremacy. Eighteen teams from the Lower Mainland are scheduled to play against 20 Squamish teams.

"The tournament kicks off the season for a lot of people," said Chapman. "A lot of people plan their long-weekend holidays around it - everybody generally has a good time."

Split into five separate divisions, all games are played at Centennial Fields with prizes handed out to the winners of each division.

With close to 750 players and volunteers participating, the tournament is also a financial boon to Squamish's economy.

"It's a lot of work, but it's fun," Chapman said. "It's good for the community - the hotels, shops and restaurants all benefit from the tournament, it's just a great event."

Another special slo-pitch event is planned for this summer, which could land Squamish and its die-hard slo-pitch fanatics into the Guinness Book of World Records.

From Aug. 20-22, participants will play inning after inning after inning on the fully-lit Field 5 ball diamond at Centennial Fields, in an attempt to crush the previous record for the longest continuous slo-pitch game ever played. The current record was established at Shelbyville softball complex in Indiana, USA in September 2002. They played for 30 hours and 5 minutes.

"We're gunning for 48 hours," said Chapman. "Lisa Brickell should be given full kudos for organizing this. It's pretty cool - hopefully we can do it."

If you would like to participate in this event in any way, please contact the organizers at squamish_slopitch_association@yahoo.ca.

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