YARMOUTH – A year ago around this time, the Yarmouth Coastal Financial Gateways were winning the national 35-and-over baseball championship, defeating an Ontario team in the title game before a huge and supportive home-town crowd at Gateway Park.
As they look to defend their championship, the Gateways will have to do so on the road, three time zones away in Medicine Hat, Alberta, the host community for the Canadian National Oldtimers Baseball Federation’s 2016 tournament, which runs July 28 to Aug. 1.
The Gateways are scheduled to play their first game Friday at 11:30 a.m. (Alberta time) against the Regina Drifters.
Paul MacDonald, the Yarmouth team’s head coach and one of its players, said he felt pretty good about the Gateways as they got ready to head out west.
The team’s roster is mostly the same as it was for last year’s national tournament. “We’re missing two players (from the 2015 championship team),” MacDonald said. “They couldn’t make it.”
He admits there are advantages to playing at home, including getting to sleep in your own bed, but he says the Gateways also have experience, which should help them in Alberta.
The Gateways have won the national title twice in recent years – 2009 (another year the tournament was held in Yarmouth) and 2015 – and they have reached several finals over the years.
To help prepare them for this year’s nationals, a half-dozen members of the Yarmouth 35-and-over team, including MacDonald, have been playing in the intermediate league here.
The Gateways were proud to win the national championship in front of their fans last year and will do their best to defend their title, MacDonald said.
“You want to represent your hometown well again,” he said. “When we go away, whether it be Alberta or Ontario or wherever the nationals happen to fall, you want to represent your province and everybody back home.”
The Gateways aren’t the only Yarmouth-area team taking part in this year’s nationals. The Pleasant Valley Lakers will have two teams in the tournament – one in the 50-and-over category, another in the 57-and-over division.
A full list of teams can be viewed here.
You can see a tournament schedule here.