For the second time in six years, Whitehorse is about to host many of the world’s best young softball players in the International Softball Federation’s Junior Men’s World Championship.
The first pitch will be launched at 12:30 p.m. on Friday July 11, at the Pepsi Softball Centre on Range Road, when Singapore’s national team takes on Japan in the premier event for fastpitch players up to the age of 19.
“This is the top of the tree for the junior men,” explains George Arcand, chair of the host committee and executive director of Softball Yukon.
For eight days, teams from five different continents will battle it out in a 45-game round-robin contest before heading into consolation and championship rounds on July 19 and 20.
“An event like this is pretty special when you look at some of the amazing athletes that are going to be involved in it,” says Arcand.
Besides Japan and Singapore, the 10-team roster includes Argentina, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Demark, Mexico, New Zealand and the USA.
Argentina is appearing as the defending champion. In the 2012 edition, held on its own turf in Parana, Argentina, it became the first South American team to win gold in the biennial competition.
Those three teams should definitely be in contention this year, Arcand suggests.
“And I think you’re going to see New Zealand be tight.”
Naturally, Arcand hopes to see big crowds at Team Canada’s nine games, which are mostly scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Team Canada won silver at the 2008 World’s on one of the Pepsi Centre’s two diamonds.
Arcand finds it easy to explain why Whitehorse was chosen to host the championship again so soon, not to mention landing the senior women’s World Competition in 2012 and rights to host the senior men’s competition slated for 2017.
“They really like our complex. They consider it world-class,” he says. “And everyone likes to come to the Yukon at least once, so there’s a draw here besides the softball.”
Arcand hopes this tournament and the 2017 event will help spark renewed interest in fastpitch locally.
“Right now in Whitehorse there’s no fastpitch being played on the local level, other than the kids. Youth 16 is the oldest we go for the kids’ ages, so we have no senior fastpitch here at all, and haven’t had for three or four years now.”
Of one thing he is certain, however. The upcoming tournament will have a big impact on the local economy.
“I can’t know what it’s going to be in this one for sure, but in one hotel I have 1,071 room-nights booked, and we’re in two other hotels as well.”
Not to mention the number of restaurant meals nearly 200 teenaged ball players can consume in a week.
“I’m sure by the time we’ve finished the economic impact study, it will be a fair amount of benefit to the Yukon,” he says.
Games will be livecast on the internet via U.S.-based Ballpark Radio and SportsCanada.TV, based in Vancouver.
Caption: For eight days, teams from five different continents will battle it out