There is an old saying, “mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” The implication is that something great can come from a modest beginning.
A few months from now, Aug. 4-7 to be exact, a mighty oak will be seen in all its glory when Port Alberni Cubs Old Timers Baseball will host the Canadian National Old Timers Baseball Federation championships at Lon Miles Field and Recreation Park.
That little acorn first germinated in the winter of 2020 and began to take root in April 2021 when about a dozen players in the mid-50s to mid-60s age group took their bats, balls and gloves to Echo Minor Field to see if they could recapture some of their youth – or a reasonable facsimile. From that first practice the word spread and others joined the group – a few at a time until there were 20-plus players who called themselves Port Alberni Cubs. It became evident early on that nobody was going to recapture their youth, but that group did rediscover a love for baseball and an understanding of how to play the game at this stage in their lives.
That first summer saw the Cubs play one game a week against a like-minded group from Comox, seven games in total – just enough to whet appetites for baseball, or, more precisely, more baseball.
With the Cubs leading the way, that acorn then became a sapling with the formation of the Port Alberni Baseball League (PABL) in the fall of 2021. The league consisted of three teams with players ranging in age from 22 to 72. The Cubs players were dispersed among the three teams, playing now with players who could be their sons. In fact, in some instances that was the case, as five father-and-son duos were playing in the league. Fast-forward to the spring of 2022 and the PABL had grown to four teams and nine father-and son duos.
And now, the oak is beginning to reach maturity. Once the 2022 PABL season ended, the Cubs regrouped and continued playing. First, a tournament in Comox, next a double header in Langley, and then a cross-country trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia to compete in the Canadian championships where they found themselves in the championship game, a tough one-run loss to the hosts.
At some point during the team’s stay in Halifax the subject of hosting the national championship was brought to the Cubs’ attention. At first the idea was received with guarded optimism. But after a number of meetings to discuss the possibility, and with full knowledge that the Alberni Valley has a large and experienced volunteer group to help with planning and operations, the commitment was made to host the national tournament.
And now the work begins – a committee is meeting on a regular basis in the lead up to the event. Planning for accommodations, sponsorships, field upgrades and game day operations are underway.
The championships themselves will have two age groups. The first group is for players who are 57 years and older, the second is for players aged 60 years and older. The Alberni Valley will enter teams in both age groups, as there are now 30 players wearing the Cubs colors.
Many of those players are currently working out – stretching, running, batting, throwing and taking ground balls at Glenwood Centre on Sunday evenings. For the players, the new baseball season in the spring and then the Canadian championships in August can’t come soon enough – at this point in their lives players relish and appreciate the opportunity to be on a baseball field.
For a couple of hours on a warm summer evening there isn’t a better place to be.
Dwayne Stern is a founding member of the Port Alberni Cubs.