INNISFAIL – Come spring it’s expected the Innisfail 590 Slo-Pitch League and its scores of ball players will be enthusiastically back for some hell raising fun and good times on local ball diamonds.
The recreational league has a long history in town; its roots going back to 1984 when Charlie Moore and his daughter Valerie Domoney talked about the opportunities mixed slo-pitch could have for sports-minded Innisfailians.
After Domoney spent many hours on the phone making contacts and setting up exhibition games with mostly out of town teams for the 1985 and 1986 seasons, the next step was to create Innisfail’s own league.
In 1987 the 590 league was officially launched. The league’s name is a salute to the original four teams and ball diamonds located along Highway 590 – Pine Lake Cannons, Kirkham’s Bodyshop, Innisfail Electrons, and Aberdeen Thunder Mugs.
Thirty-five years later the 590, with its quirky eight-inning game model, still thrives. In 2021, it carried on through the pandemic with 11 teams, although it did so under strict COVID-era guidelines.
“We were the only league up and running in town that year,” noted Kristen Spatz, the 590’s current president.
Despite that inconvenience, the league remains a beloved local institution where there’s always plenty of smiles and laughter, fiercely loyal comradery, and optimum civic pride to always support the community whenever it can.
“We are here to have fun and enjoy the company of each other,” said 590 member Paul Galenza. “Most of us have jobs and families and the little bit of time we have twice a week for a couple of hours, we get together to play some ball for exercise and just to be social.”
Outside of the regular season, 590 members have stepped up the past 10 winters to host the league’s annual Innisfail Sno-Pitch Tournament. It’s an event when it never matters how cold it is or if the snow is falling hard. 590 members will come.
The sno-pitch tourney is a fundraiser for a citizen or worthy group in need, whether it's an adult facing a life challenge, or a child urgently needing medical care. The 590 will always be there for a community member.
“There’s always been someone in need,” said Domoney, the current 590 treasurer, adding the event has even supported Big Brother Big Sisters.
In 2022 the sno-pitch tourney, which was cancelled for the first time in 2021 because of the pandemic, was held Feb. 12 and 13 at the ball diamonds by the Innisfail Arena.
“As everyone knows the pandemic has caused great amounts of stress on the community and it’s residents,” said Courtland Wood, a co-ordinator of the sno-pitch tourney with Galenza. “The annual sno-pitch tournament brought the community together once again to play a sport near and dear to our hearts, enjoy the beautiful weather, provide laughter and comradery while utilizing the town’s recreational facilities.”
This year, the bitter cold and blowing snow stayed away, giving way to warm mid-winter temperatures and mostly brilliant blue skies.
There were seven local teams from both the A and B sides of the league participating, and one from Sylvan Lake. Each of the eight teams signed up at a cost of $250 each, monies that went to a fundraising pot, and to pay out the tourney’s two best teams.
Sylvan Lake, or Pitches be Trippin as the team is better known on the diamond, won the tourney. They collected $250 but donated $100 of it to the fundraising pot. Local team GTR was the runner-up and won $150. They donated all of it back to 590’s fundraising drive.
And this year’s recipient? It’s going into the 590 to ensure its post-pandemic future.
“This year we were hesitant on whether or not we would be able to have our tournament so we ended up planning very last minute. The decision to donate to the league was also last minute,” said Spatz. “We will be dividing up what we raised between all the teams for their entry fees to play this coming season and probably putting a bit of money into the Bowden Ball Diamonds since all of us play there as well.”
As for the 2022 regular season, it will most certainly go on from spring to summer, and likely without any pandemic restrictions.
Best of all, there’s now talk about having a big 35th anniversary party to honour the game that has given so much back into the community.
“This has been a big part of my life for over 10 years,” said Spatz. “I think a celebration may be in order.”