George Arcand is known to many Yukoners around the ball diamond as the guy always on the go whether it is flipping burgers, cutting grass in the outfield or coaching a rep team.
So it is surprising to see him so noticeably tranquil during a recent interview at the complex, especially considering in less than two weeks time Whitehorse will host the biggest sporting event the Pepsi Softball Centre has ever seen.
Turns out the slo-pitch guru was just on a quick break because, as soon as our interview is complete, he is back to his usual antics instructing two young staff members on a quad where to store some equipment as he advises another how he wants the flag poles set up.
“You should have been here last week,” explains Arcand. “We had about 25 different contractors doing a variety of odd jobs.”
One of those jobs was building a roof over the patio that will enable fans to watch both fields under a covered area.
The new covered patio is just one of the many upgrades that have taken place over the past year and a half, with new infields put in, dugouts upgraded and extra fencing also added, amongst other things.
It is all in preparation of the Junior Men’s World Fast Pitch Championships which run in Whitehorse June 20 to 29 and feature 12 teams from around the world.
“It sort of came in unusual fashion and just blossomed from a conversation and the fact we had never done a worlds,” describes Arcand, tournament director, when asked how he was able to lure the Junior Worlds north.
Unusual or not, the fact is in one week more than 600 people, from family and fans to players and coaches, will descend on the Yukon capital city.
Arcand says overall the pre-tournament prep has gone smoothly but there have been some minor speed bumps to deal with.
“The amount of airplane tickets out there right now is not many,” said Arcand. “We did have some challenges but we’ve got them on Air North so we should be fine.”
Arcand says aside from getting the players here, they are still working on finishing the complex. But most of the construction is done and now they are just cleaning up and adding a bit of electrical.
“There are still a few things to be done but were getting there,” explains Arcand.
Right now, Arcand says it is a challenge finding accommodation for more than 70 family and friends with the United States team who are coming north.
“They are the largest contingent by far, but we’ve got a lot of interest from New Zealand and Australia as well,” says Arcand. “Team Canada supporters are also scrambling as their official team was just announced.”
Arcand, who has been involved with Yukon slo-pitch and softball in one capacity or another for the past three decades, just laughs when asked if he is a sucker for punishment with all the work he puts into the sport and, most recently, the Junior Worlds.
“I still sleep sometime between midnight and 6 a.m. each night,” he jokes. “Honestly though, I’m truly excited about this. But you’re always cautious because there are a million things to do and there are a lot of people working really hard behind me. It will all come together for sure and the Yukon will put a good show on as they always do.”
The Canadian Softball Hall of Famer is quick to acknowledge how supportive of the championships the adult slo-pitch league has been especially considering their league is being shut down for two weeks to accommodate the event.
“A lot of them are actually volunteering so we’ve had tremendous support,” says Arcand. “We actually had to shut down the website that was set up to recruit volunteers because we had such a great response.”
Arcand says with so little time left before the opening pitch is thrown, now his focus is just on dressing the park up and fine tuning things such as selling tickets.
And while Arcand understands the traditional Yukon form is to wait until the last minute to buy tickets, he urges fans not to miss out.
“It will be the best ball the city has ever seen,” ensures Arcand. “We’ve had great slo-pitch tournaments here in the past with the Western Canadians and such but this is going to be on a whole other level.”
The Junior Men’s World Fast Pitch Championships are being held June 20 to 29.
Tickets can be purchased at Sport Yukon.
PHOTO: George Maratos (to be added)