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Grizzlies glove gold at Slo-Pitch National Championship

A decade-long journey culminates in a historic victory for the seasoned sluggers.
The St. Albert Grizzlies show off their gold medals after winning the 50+ division of the Canadian Slo-Pitch Nationals in Leduc. JOHN ALESSI/Supplied

The atmosphere was electric as the St. Albert Grizzlies clinched gold at the 2023 Canada 50-plus Slo-Pitch National Championship, the crowning achievement of the team's decade-long journey.

Manager John Alessi said the Grizzlies have been playing in the city for 10 years. They went into the national championship tournament — held in Leduc from Aug. 4-7 — with a core group of veteran players, while adding a few extra faces from other teams. Each member of the roster brought over two decades of experience to the diamond, Alessi said. 

"We overcame a couple of injuries to first baseman Greg Boras and left fielder Terry Bryce,” Alessi said. “The replacement players, Rob Snow and Rob Dellaire, played extremely well.”

This year's nationals witnessed the Grizzlies displaying unmatched team chemistry.

“The players jelled together as a team immediately,” said Alessi.

The tournament was marked with intense games and moments of individual brilliance.

“Beating the Chatham, Ont. team during the first round of the playoffs 16-14, after losing 16-4 to them during the round-robin game,” was a significant highlight, Alessi said. “We also then beat them in the final game of the tournament 16-12.”

One particularly shining performance came from Dale Perry, who was named tournament MVP. He was honoured “not only for his pitching and defence, but also for his hitting during the four games of the playoffs,” said Alessi.

“It was special to be selected as the MVP, although I thought there were several others on the team who were also deserving of the award," Perry said. "It’s a team game, and we played as a team, with different guys picking up the slack each game.”

That cohesion made the victories even sweeter, both on and off the field.

“It was great to win a tournament with so many guys I have played with and against for many years," Perry said. "Our team functions really well, as most of the guys are friends who play hard and party hard together.”

The Grizzlies are an offensively driven squad, but skilful pitching paired with a solid defence led them to a notable record of 16-7-2 in the 40-plus division of the St. Albert Men’s Slow Pitch Association (SAMSPA) league.

The event’s hosting body Slo-Pitch National Softball, which began in 1989, provides Canada's slo-pitch community with tournaments, league and team memberships, as well as umpire programs. Its aim is to offer and promote organized slo-pitch initiatives to members across the nation.

The championship tournament brought out the best in the Grizzlies, according to Alessi.

“They were all calm, always focused on the game that they were playing," he said. "They were always positive and having fun.”