Early Friday, three mowers rattled across an Edson, Alta., hayfield and cut a diamond into the bristles.
“It’s the whole Field of Dreams idea — you make it, they’ll come,” said Mark Maris, who directed the effort. “So we started mowing.”
Within hours, tents and trailers surrounded the lot.
Maris transformed a section of his family’s acreage into a softball diamond after the Edson Kinsmen club cancelled its traditional summertime slo-pitch tournament.
The club dissolved in August after filing for bankruptcy, ending the decades-old competition.
“The whole town is missing this event,” said Maris, who found out about the cancellation Monday.
“It’s not just the tournament that gets cancelled, it’s the fun weekend and the get-together of all these kids that have been playing for so many years.”
Ninety teams had signed up for the 2017 tournament. In its prime, the event boasted thousands of competitors from across Canada.
Community steps up
Maris and his family invited four teams to their acreage, about 200 kilometres west of Edmonton.
A rough-mown hayfield served as a campground for their impromptu three-day tournament, which ended Sunday.
The community also stepped up to the plate, Maris said. Business owners donated equipment and food or offered discounts to slo-pitch players.
Another group of locals hosted 16 teams in Marlboro, a hamlet 25 kilometres west of Edson.
“It says a lot about Edson,” Maris said.
“People stepped up because it was a shock and they know what kind of disappointment that is for the youngsters that wanted to be part of the tournament.”
‘A culture in Edson’
Maris remembers playing slo-pitch with his high-school sweetheart 37 years ago, when the Edson Kinsmen club launched its first tournament.
The couple now has three sons, who had registered in the 2017 event.
“We’ve been playing in this tournament forever,” Maris said.
“Now that my three boys are all old enough to be a part of it, I didn’t want them to miss out.”
“It’s become a culture in Edson,” he added. “It’s just what we’re used to.”
His family’s tournament was a home run with competitors, Maris said.
“It’s as much about playing ball as it is about all getting together around the fire pit after and hootin’ and hollerin’.”
Maris hasn’t ruled out hosting another grassroots tournament in 2018, but said he’s convinced another club will take over Edson’s ball-game legacy.
“It’ll come back to life,” he said. “It definitely won’t go away.”