ATHABASCA - There’s nothing like fall baseball, they say, but this probably isn’t exactly what they had in mind.
With most sports cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an Edmonton man, originally from Calling Lake, took it upon himself this year to make sure the slo-pitch showdown he organizes in Athabasca every year took place, even if it was scaled down and held at a different location.
Blair “Magoo” Gladue has actually organized several tournaments in Alberta this year, drawing players from all across the province. Two tournaments went off without a hitch in High Prairie earlier this year, and with the ball diamonds at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex off limits for the time being, Gladue took his annual tournament to Amber Valley.
It actually turned out to be three tournaments over two weekends at Amber Valley, with a co-ed tournament taking place over the Sept. 26-27 weekend and a separate men’s and women’s tournament held simultaneously Oct. 3-4. Both weekends were complemented with home run derbies, that kept the sizable crowds with their eyes to the skies, and those that took part, with their eyes on the $500 prize.
“I’ve been doing it in Athabasca for four years, this would have been our fifth year in a row if we would have been able to have it, but with COVID, there are a lot of restrictions,” said Gladue, who said physical distancing would be strongly encouraged, and there would be constant cleaning taking place throughout the weekend.
There are usually, 16-20 teams that sign up for the events in Athabasca, but Gladue settled for just seven last weekend, with four men’s teams and three women’s teams taking to the Amber Valley ball diamonds.
“The community gets to come out and enjoy a little ball with some food and some music, and we only have a few teams this weekend, so it’s perfect,” he said. “What you’ve got to do is maintain social distancing and make sure you sanitize and just enjoy yourself. You can still have fun and enjoy the weekend.”
And while there is prize money up for grabs for the winners, Gladue says it’s all about having fun and getting the community come together. Players travelled from as far away as Fort Vermillion to take part because they know Gladue puts on a good show, and is dedicated to keeping it that way, with a food concession and an Oilers shop. No alcohol is allowed on the premises.
(Gladue is also known as ‘Superfan Magoo’, and can often be found at Oilers games, decked out in his orange and blue blazers and face paint, banging away on a drum in the stands, but that’s another story.)
“I don’t do it to make money, I just do it for the love of the game. It brings baseball back to our home community. I just love ball,” said Gladue, adding it’s a nice change of pace after most people had a rough 2020, with everything from sports, to travel, to work being delayed and/or cancelled.
“It makes you think about life, and think about everybody and just being able to be alive and enjoy yourself, and just love everyone.”