South East Men’s Fastball League hosting reconciliation games June 11
May 19, 2022, 1:42 pm
Sierra D'Souza Butts, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
On June 11, the South East Men’s Fastball League is hosting a day of reconciliation games where all six teams in the league will be playing league games against each other to promote reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
The event will be happening in Whitewood, which is also referred to as Treaty 4 territory.
There are three Indigenous teams and three non-Indigenous teams in the league, and all six are participating in the event. The teams that will be participating are the Fleming Jets, Kahkewistahaw Jays, Whitewood Falcons, Round Lake Braves, Grenfell Gems and Cowessess Royals.
The three Indigenous teams will be playing against the three non-Indigenous teams that day.
“I think it’s important because there are a lot of Indigenous and non-Indigenous teams in our league, it’s a good mix,” said Ian Glasser, president of the South East Men’s Fastball League.
“Indigenous communities have been involved in the league for as long as I can remember, and years before that. With all the ugly past that has come out that a lot of us have just learned about in the last year, they’ve (the Indigenous communities) known about that for as long as it’s been going on.
“I think it’s important as a league that we show our support for one another and the reconciliation, and that we move forward in unity.”
Teams will be wearing orange shirts in recognition of honoring the Indigenous children and survivors of residential schools. The league also encourages everyone attending the games that day to wear orange as well.
“We’re all going to be wearing orange shirts. Nutrien is donating the shirts so each team won’t be wearing their normal jersey that day, they’ll be wearing their orange shirt with the logo on the front,” Glasser said.
“The shirts are to show that once you cross the lines on the diamond, you don’t see color, you don’t see race, you don’t see culture, it’s just you play ball together and that’s how you should live your life, too.”
Glasser said the league’s executive thought it was important to create an event dedicated to reconciliation.
“I think it’s an opportunity for us to learn and grow as people, and for us to have fun playing ball,” Glasser said.
“Hopefully it opens up conversations with everyone involved, that people come to watch and observe, to bring awareness that there is an ugly past. Let’s learn about it and move forward together.”
Glasser said he is excited for the camaraderie of the event.
“You see everyone and all the different teams when you play throughout the year, but it’s going to be cool to see all of the teams there together at one time,” he said.
“I think it’s important that there’s an opportunity for the teams, communities, players, families, fans, and everyone to grow together here.”
Being a part of the league and playing with the other teams has built a sense of community, Glasser said. Glasser says the league is a tight-knit group.
“When you see the stuff that happened from the residential schools that you didn’t learn about in school as a non-Indigenous person, but they (Indigenous peoples) always knew about it, you hear about that and you feel for them because you are friends on the ball diamond,” he said.
“That’s where the league ties in to being a close knit group, everyone gets along, and as someone who’s not directly affected, we still want to show our support.”
He said there is no charge for individuals who are interested in coming to the reconciliation games.
“Our focus isn’t a fundraiser, it’s more the awareness part of it. There will be drinks and a concession on site, there’s a group that will be doing a 50-50 too, but as a league we’re not focused on making money, we’re focused on spreading awareness,” he said.
Coaches excited for a day of fastballand reconciliation
The World-Spectator spoke with the managers from all six teams about what they look forward to the most about the upcoming event.
“I think it’s awesome for this area of Southeast Saskatchewan, it will hopefully bring light to everyone, and the whole circumstance of reconciliation and bringing us all together,” said Colton MacPherson, manager of the Whitewood Falcons.
“I’m excited to bring all the teams together in one location and to bring awareness to everyone. I think it’s going to be an awesome day. It was Ian’s idea, he and Chief Evan Taypotat have done an awesome job with trying to organize this whole event.
“We’re really excited for it. I think it’s awesome for the community, for Whitewood and the teams.”
Randall Sparvier, manager and player of the Round Lake Braves, shared what he is looking forward to, about the event.
“I think the initiation of discussion would be great. If you hear both sides come together and say, I think we should do a recognition ball game or ball tournament for our towns and our First Nations to come together,” he said.
“To have the First Nations and non-First Nations different talented ball players in the local areas come together, and put a show on for the community, just to show the unity in not only sports, but in our towns and nations too, that we work together and make a positive turn in regards to our relationship in the area.”
“I think it’s very good that Southeast Saskatchewan has stepped up and made it a reality of putting together a tournament that will show all the official teams, it will enlighten and give some entertainment to the crowds. I think everywhere we go we showcase the ball teams from our local towns and it’s been exciting for the past couple of years.
“I think it gives people a better show for the truth of reconciliation and makes sure our hometown games are showcased in bigger crowds too. That’s definitely a positive run on the Truth and Reconciliation games that we are acknowledging in the area, that we’re making a step to make it a reality.”
He said he is excited about the reconciliation games. “The excitement is definitely making it be recognized, I think at the end of the day that’s the first step of the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada,” Sparvier said.
“To bring the communities together and show the youth that the sport is alive in our area, and to ensure that we’re working together. I also want to make the recognition that the event is being hosted on the Treaty 4 territory, and it’s greatly appreciated to acknowledge that too.”
Tyler Thomlinson manager and assistant coach of the Grenfell Gems, shared his thoughts. “I think it’s an important thing for us just because fastball is a sport that historically unites people, that’s the whole spirit of Truth and Reconciliation, is trying to unite people, and fastball, at least in our area and lives, ” he said.
“It’s a wonderful avenue to celebrate the relationships of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people have with each other. It’s a nice way to come together and celebrate the culture together too.”
Thomlinson said the event will also bring recognition about First Nations cultural practices.
“Other than the fact it’s going to be a really fun day of ball, any time we get all six teams together it will be like a mini sports day which is really exciting because it’s something we haven’t been able to do in a while,” Thomlinson said.
“There’s that part, but the other side to it is I know that there is going to be some cultural events there. There’s going to be a ceremony at some point so that’s really exciting.
“Any time we have some cultural ceremonies, it’s a lot of fun to be part of and it’s inspiring to be a part of. I think it was a great idea that was proposed by the league, and everyone coming together to put on this event, it’s going to be a lot of fun for the league, not just us players but for anyone coming to watch. It’s another meaningful step towards reconciliation for sure.”
Braden Stewart, coach of Fleming Jets, shared why he thinks this event is important to have.
“I think it’s important because the Indigenous population in our league is high, and they’re very important to keeping our league up and running,” he said.
“Half of our leagues teams are Indigenous teams so recognizing that when we get on the ball field, everyone’s equal, there’s no discrimination. When we’re competing against the other teams we want to play our best when competing against them, not because of their race but because of the sport.”
Stewart said he is looking forward to the June 11 event.
“I’m excited because with everything that happened with Covid, and before Covid, Cowessess joined our league, and I’m excited for us to be the first league to do something like this here in Saskatchewan,” he said.
“I think when Ian Glasser brought the idea up it was a big yes for me, and then when we had our league meeting everyone thought it was a great idea too. Our league can lead by example, us being a small league, if we can get enough publicity by it I think it can be something that can happen all over Saskatchewan.
“If anyone wants to come out and enjoy the games, it will be free and all teams will be playing each other. There may me a speech from the mayor of Whitewood, and one of the chiefs from the First Nations. It’s going to be a great day for everyone to come out, if we can get as many people out as possible to recognize this day, it would be very important for not only our league, but fastball and the problem in general.”
Chief Evan Taypotat of Kahkewistahaw Jays shared his thoughts about the event.
“I think it’s important to have because the year is 2022 and we live in Canada, I think it’s about time that we recognize the traumas and injustices that happened to First Nation peoples, and if we can do that through sport, then I think Canada will be a better place for it,” he said.
“First and foremost, I want to give the league a shoutout because they’re non-Indigenous men who approached Indigenous people and said we want to do something like this, what are your thoughts?
“Of course, me being the optimist that I am, I believe it’s a good thing, but I’m certainly looking forward to spreading some awareness about reconciliation wearing the orange jerseys that we have ordered, and at the end of the day getting out on the field against a non-Indigenous team and having some fun.
“When you get on the ball diamond, or any sport in the matter, skin color doesn’t matter and fastball is no different. That’s what we’re looking forward to, is to just bring people in, watch some good action and wear orange jerseys while we’re at it.
“One of the big things that I’m going to preach is in Canada we have First Nation peoples that are treated like second class citizens and sometimes their cultural traditions are treated differently in a first world country, but I think it’s important that non -Indigenous Canadians understand that Indigenous people have been, and will be their neighbors for our life time and for the next. We may as well get to know each other and get along.”