Growing up in a large family on Caribou Road, my parents didn’t really want me in the way, so they used to drive me outside.
Left to find something to occupy my time, it wasn’t long before I found myself shooting around a hockey ball on the road and eventually graduated to buying a pair of brown skates with yellow stripes, and borrowing enough equipment to register for the minor hockey program in Corner Brook.
I met some lifelong friends through hockey, scored a lot of goals and loved going on road trips.
I had some good coaches along the way who helped me become a decent player, but I lacked passion for hockey and gave it up after a short stint of junior.
During the summer months, a beat-up softball, a bat and glove would come into my possession, so I started throwing the ball around with my sister, Karen, who was playing in the local women’s league.
Those first few tosses in the long driveway of our homestead would eventually lead me to getting to know guys like Jeff Boutcher and Tom Newman. These two guys who lived down the road were probably told by their own parents to get out of the house and do something productive.
Softball became the biggest passion in my life.
I pitched on the local, provincial and Eastern Canadian level for 35 years — my first pitch in the local senior men’s softball league at the age of 15 and throwing my last strike at 50 years of age, and a city championship to boot.
Why softball became a big part of my life has nothing to do with receiving titles, trophies or individual awards.
Jeanette Boutcher is why.
She coached me in minor softball when she was the driving force behind a minor program offered under the City of Corner Brook’s summer program.
I had a terrible attitude when I first started playing the game (some might say I still do), but Jeannette always saw good in me and pushed me to train harder because she thought I could be better. She also pushed me to think more about the guys around me and understand they were just as important as me.
She always made sure we had fun. We had so much fun together because of her that we all started to spend more time working on our skillset and before long we would be on the diamond after senior games clewed up.
I didn’t want to miss a game or a practice. That in itself was pretty impressive considering I was one of the laziest people around and had a knack for getting out of stuff I wasn’t in the mood to do.
Our relationship became stronger when she exposed me to my favourite part of sports: coaching.
As a coach, I could provide an impact player on some other young boy or girl who didn’t know they had a love for something until it shone through as a result of somebody else’s belief and encouragement.
We coached together for a number of years and won some championships.
Coaching softball gave me everything good I got out of life, really, and I want Butch to know that I appreciate everything she did to help me become the person I am today.
Thanks for believing in me during the times I had given up on me.