BY GEORGE MARATOS

George Arcand stands just beyond the pitcher’s diamond on the Takhini’s No. 5 ball field, on a sunny Monday afternoon, late last month.

He is surrounded by torn-up dirt as he surveys the large trucks working vigorously behind him.

It was just over a year ago that Arcand, executive director for Softball Yukon, was doing similar field maintenance at the Pepsi Softball Centre across the street.

That work was in preparation for the International Junior Fastball Championships that Whitehorse successfully hosted.

During that time, Arcand hinted he might take a break once the tournament was complete, but a year later he shows no signs of slowing down.

“I’m still going strong,” smiles Arcand.

The field renovations are just one of the many measures he is taking to ensure another “Dustball” slo-pitch tournament goes off without a hitch.

Speaking with Arcand 10 days from the opening pitch being thrown, it would seem everything is lining up nicely for, bar none, the biggest slo-pitch tournament held in the territory each year.

Seventy-four teams have registered, which is a three-year high, and more than 800 players are set to take the field July 9 to 12.

Arcand says it’s those numbers that astonish him each year.

“Over the course of three days, there could be 220 games played,” explains Arcand in amazement. “To play that much ball in such a short period is unbelievable.”

Among the 74 teams this year will be a team from Tuktoyaktuk, a community of just over 800 located more than 1,300 kilometres from Whitehorse.

Arcand, who has been involved with Dustball since its inception close to 30 years ago, says he isn’t surprised a team is willing to drive 2,500 kilometres for one weekend of softball.

“I think the tournament has built a special reputation after being around for so long,” said Arcand. “People really enjoy it and, once they have played once, they love coming back.”

In addition to a “Tuk” team, the other change this year is that there will be no men’s division, something Arcand says is a testament to how the tournament has evolved over the years.

“The changes are certainly dramatic,” says Arcand. “I can remember when it was just men’s and women’s and now we have more co-ed teams than ever.

“It’s certainly a social tournament. They love the ball and they love playing, but it is the social aspect that is the big thing with Dustball.”

Dustball gets underway Thursday evening July 9 and continues from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. until Sunday.