The Sheila Bishop Slo-pitch Tournament is back at Peachfest for the 12th year.
Wooden bats only is the cardinal rule, which forces teams to focus more on their defensive strategy.
“All these teams that come in and try it they absolutely love it because it’s just a completely different game than what everybody plays now (with metal bats),” said Paul Borba, co-organizer of the event. “They’re all used to playing games where guys are hitting six or seven home runs out of Lions Park – but in all of our years playing there we’ve only had five balls leave the park total.”
When they began planning the tournament in its infancy, organizers wanted to focus on baseball to commemorate Sheila Bishop, who was well-known in Penticton’s slo-pitch community before passing away to cancer.
Instead of hosting a typical slo-pitch tournament, the team of organizers wanted to embrace an old-fashioned rule, and wooden bats are what hit the mark.
“We wanted to make it different – a lot of us on the team are older guys, and we decided to have a wooden bat because nobody uses them anymore. It’s kind of a retro thing just to kind of remind us when we started playing.”
While Borba is an avid fan of slo-pitch having played for years, he said the frequency of home run hits can take some fun out of the sport.
“It’s gotten to the point where there’s not much you can do because the ball gets hit so hard,” he said. “Now you get a chance to actually make plays on the infield, throw people out, and it creates a whole different game because you can’t just have the biggest guys crushing it out of there, you need everybody to hit singles – that’s the only way you win those games.”
He said the atmosphere is very fun and the competition doesn’t get heated.
But there’s still a considerable prize pool – about $1,000 gets divvied up between the top three teams. Money leftover from the tournament is donated back into the community each year, around $42,000 cumulatively.
That number wouldn’t be as large if it weren’t for the local umpire association which donates their service.
“That saves us quite a bit of money,” Borba said, estimating $800 to $1,000 in value each year. “We’re really appreciative of them.”
Batters can also try their luck at a home run derby. Competitors are divided by gender, and for $5 get to take a swing. “And whoever hits the furthest ball gets half the pot.
“People really love it,” he said, citing 50 to 60 people as the average participation for the home run derby.
The tournament will also be generation revenue through a silent auction and beverage garden. Money raised will be donated to the family of six-year-old Myla Ganzeveld who’s battling cancer. The goodwill was immediately paid forward as the Ganzeveld family asked for the donation to be split between them and the family of three-year-old Lynnea Holmstrom, who’s also fighting cancer for nearly two years.
The games will get underway on Aug. 8 and 9, 8:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. on the 8th and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m on the 9th.