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Community spirit hits a home run at North Saanich’s Rotary Park

Many volunteers consider the facility a second home
Peninsula Baseball and Softball Association held a special ceremony last month with all the teams to mark the 30th anniversary of Rotary Park, the association’s current home. The ceremony, held April 9, saw former North Saanich mayor and former Sidney councillor Ted Daly throw the ceremonial first pitch. (Courtesy Kyle Robinson Photography)

As the current season of the Peninsula Baseball and Softball Association continues to swing through spring into summer, one aspect has remained – the association’s defining sense of community and volunteerism.

The 2022 season has heightened this, in celebrating the 30th anniversary of Rotary Park located on Victoria Airport Authority lands. Its three baseball fields and two dedicated softball fields coupled with a playground have not only made the park one of the focal points of recreation on the Saanich Peninsula for just under 200 kids at the association but it’s also made Rotary Park a place to be enjoyed for its own sake.

“It’s a great community space, and anybody who comes to our park says, ‘wow, you have one of the nicest parks around,’” said Stacey Rees, who sits on the board of the association as a director. “We get that all the time.”

True, players and fans may feel the odd chill here or there thanks to the prevailing winds early in the season, but this turns into an advantage during the hot summer months. The park also offers more than just a pleasant ambience in producing talents as the U-17 team last year won bronze at the provincial championships.

Like so many organizations, the Peninsula Baseball and Softball Association runs on volunteers. For association president Lisa Fenton, volunteering offers its own special kind of magic. It lies in seeing children who enter the association at five progress through it, learning and growing as persons and players.

Fenton saw this magic in her oldest daughter, who came to softball relatively late, having never played team sports before. But thanks to the coaching staff centred on Anthony Pluta, one of the leading coaches in British Columbia, Fenton saw her daughter flourish, gaining confidence along the way. Fenton’s youngest daughter is now following in her sister’s footsteps in looking to older players for pointers, who in turn help to mentor younger players as part of a virtuous circle.

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Rees has also seen her son go through the system, having started as a six-year-old before leaving youth baseball at the age of 19. At one stage, the family would commute regularly three or four times a week to Victoria for training sessions but eventually found its way back to Rotary Park, with Rees’ daughter still set to play for another three years out of the facility.

With more than a decade of volunteering already under her belt and more to come, Rees has no plans to slow down, in describing herself and her husband as part of a baseball family.

“It feels like home,” she said. “It makes me feel good.”

This commitment is also rooted in Rees’ sense of having grown up in the area. “I believe in community,” she said. “I believe in being local.”

Like other local organizations, the Peninsula Baseball and Softball Association has to re-introduce itself to the region after COVID. “We are still recovering from COVID,” said Fenton. “(It) has had a bit of an effect on registration. There are still some nervous families out there. Last year (registration) was even lower, but we have seen an increase this year, which makes us hopeful.”

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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