By Darryl G. Smart
Even Mother Nature couldn’t get in the way of the Simcoe Braves Sunday.
After a brief delay thanks to the late morning rain Sunday, the Braves’ 372 day wait to play fastball ended with a very convincing 9-0 win over the Port Perry Devils at Audrey S. Hellyer Memorial Park in Waterford.
“I knew he wouldn’t cancel this game,” Braves catcher Mike Walker said with a laugh. “There was no way. We knew it would blow over. It turned out to be nice.”
In fact, it was the perfect day for ball to return to a local ball diamond despite all fastball and baseball leagues having cancelled its seasons because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the Softball Canada’s Return to Play protocol, the 16U team kicked off a 12-game mini season with the double header against the Devils.
“It’s exciting. We’ve waited all year for this,” said Nolan Bultena, who led the Braves with a one-hit, 11 strikeout gem on the mound in the opener. It’s great to be back on the ball field, being with the guys and having fun.
“It has been tough,” he said. “I’m not going to lie. It was tough to not play. We’re all happy to be playing again.”
The excitement was pretty obvious as soon as you entered the park, with the familiar sounds of a ball game going on, and of course with a few alterations.
Much like Major League Baseball, there were no fans in the stands, though they were permitted to watch the game in designated spots behind the fencing around the outfield and not near the dugout.
Hitters, runners, catchers and the umpires wore masks to cover up, while each team supplied its own ball, and did their best to distance in the dugouts, just to name a few of the differences.
And with no championship on the line, the players and coaches are simply making the most of the opportunity they are given.
“We have 12 games and we have to make the most of it, and get ready for next year,” Bultena said. “It’s nice that we don’t get the whole season off. It’s nice to play some games to see where we’re at and prepare for next year. We just want to get better.”
“This is better than nothing,” Mike Walker said. “This is all about getting ready for next year.”
In the opener, the Braves notched four runs in the third inning. Brodie Holt, Nate Veldstra, Ryan Vanetten, and Danny Scott each knocked in runs during the big inning. In the end, they racked up 12 hits. Aiden Cloet, Holt, and Bultena all had multiple hits for the Braves. Cloet went 3-for-4 at the plate to lead all Braves on the offensive end.
In the back half of the double header, the Devils got plenty of revenge, beating the Braves 11-1 to split the day.
Next week the Braves will travel to Innerkip for a double header.