By Darryl G. Smart
Fastball has always been in George Ryder’s blood. Whether it be on the mound during his playing days, or as an executive, or coach, Ryder has been a mentor to many, not only in our area, but around the country.
And for his efforts, Ryder was awarded for his 56 years in the game, with the F. R. Feaver Memorial Trophy during the Ontario Amateur Softball Association awards ceremony.
“I had no idea I was nominated. It was such a surprise,” Ryder said. “ I was actually going to the fridge and (wife) Jayne said I better get up here because I just won the Fever award. I tuned into the OASA convention as a past president, wanting to hear about some of the new rules. I knew they were presenting some awards, but I had no idea.”
The F. R. Feaver Memorial Trophy is presented to a player, official or officer of any league or association who, in the opinion of the Feaver Award Committee, has made an outstanding contribution to the game of softball. The award was introduced in 1972 and is awarded annually in memory of Frank Feaver who was the OASA Secretary from 1943 to 1956. Frank’s dedication, service and devotion played a major role in the expansion and development of the game of softball.
“Everybody looks at it differently. When I really think about this, it isn’t about me,” Ryder said. “It’s more so the people that encouraged me and kept me motivated to be a volunteer. The people around you, the coaches and athletes. Even when I did the administration side of things, there was so much support.”
Ryder couldn’t be a more deserving recipient of this award. On the mound, Ryder spent decades dominating the sport locally with his intimidating stare as he delivered some of the hardest pitches to opposing batters. He led a number of local teams to provincial and Eastern Canadian championships.
Once his playing days were over, Ryder became a huge contributor to the game, coaching for over 25 years, with championships following him every step of the way. Among his coaching accomplishments is being the head coach of Team Ontario from 2013 to 2017, where he won a gold medal, and pitching coach for Canada’s junior national team in 2012 and 2014.
He continues to help out locally and beyond with young ball players coming up through the ranks.
“I just love watching a well-pitched game, and being able to do that in your own backyard,” Ryder said. “Any time a team or player wants to learn something, I’m there. I really enjoy seeing these players develop and go through the ranks.”
Ryder was an executive member of the OASA from 2007 to 2014, which included being the president in 2013 to 14. In 2010 he was honoured with the OASA President’s Merit Award, and in 2019 was named to the OASA Gil Read Coaches Honour Roll.
Funny enough, coaching is something that was never on his radar.
“After I was done playing I was pretty banged up,” Ryder said. “Rick Courneyea asked if I could help him out in Waterford. We had a great time with it.
“I remember a kid we had on that team, Joey Overdevest,” he said. “He wasn’t one of our starting guys. We were at Canadians and playing Quebec. He got a chance to play, got up to the plate and got a hit. I had to tell him to get back to first base because he was so excited. The whole team was excited for him. The next inning he got a ball in the outfield and picked an aggressive runner out. He threw a bullet to third base. He also got another hit that game. Here’s a guy that got a chance and went 2-for-2 and made an amazing defensive play. All of those fly balls and batting practices in the dark paid off. That was a real highlight. He had the passion to play. If you have the passion that’s what matters. That’s when I caught the bug to coach.”
Another highlight was his final game as coach of Team Ontario, and winning the gold medal at the 2017 Canada Summer Games.
“It was my final hurrah. I dedicated 12 years to that program and it was a real honour to win,” Ryder said. “It was a really cool moment. There have been so many good memories and so many great people. This game is so amazing because of the people you meet along the way. And there are countless people I came across that made this possible.”
During the event, the OASA also inducted the 2001 Team Ontario squad into the Hall of Fame in the team category.That team featured Waterford’s Mike Grupstra and Simcoe’s Jeff Wilson and Chris Smith, as well as Waterford Yin’s teammates Chad Crawford and Kendrick Nicholson, who was a pickup for the team during its national championship run.
Team Ontario went undefeated and captured the gold medal at the Canada Summer Games. They also became the only fastball team to win the Ontario Sports Award’s Team of the Year, while five athletes received OASA scholarships, two coaches and the manager are in the OASA Hall of Fame, and Nicholson went on to become a NHL referee.
That summer, the Waterford Yin’s team also went undefeated, capturing the OASA championship en route to the national title.