When Tak Niketas was young, baseball wasn’t just a sport but a way of life.
After school, he would toss his cleats over the handle bars of his bike and ride to the corner store, where he and a handful of friends would each buy a stick of gum and head to the baseball field to play a good game of ball.
“When I stepped onto the field, it took you away from everything else that you had. If you didn’t do your homework, or you didn’t do well on a test, then you could come out here and forget about all the issues you had as a kid,” he said.
At 51, he continues to love the game and its technical aspects. “It’s not just about throwing a ball, there’s so much that’s in baseball. You have to be really skilled and have great hand-eye coordination to play the sport.”
Niketas has been dedicated to coaching young players at Beacon Hill Little League’s Hollywood Park for the past 18 years. But now, he is getting set hang up his coaching hat – a feeling he describes as bittersweet. His last hurrah will be as manager for the major all-star team, which is hosting the provincial championships in July.
His passion for baseball began after his father signed him up in 1975 to play at the Fairfield Road park, where he mostly played catcher and first base. He made the league’s all-star team and competed at the provincials in 1977, but, he recalled, they lost all four games.
Despite the setback, his love for baseball continued over the years and in 1999, Niketas started coaching when his older son, Alex joined the league.
Niketas, who works as a Saanich firefighter, also became the park liaison to the City of Victoria and was involved with the league executive. While all three of his children played and aged out of the park – his younger son, Chris, played his final season there in 2012 – Niketas continued to coach.
“It was neat to come back with my kids and come back to the park that I played at as a kid, so I got involved,” he said. When he runs into former teammates from the old days, they chuckle when they find out he’s still involved with the league.
“It’s been fun. I’ve met a lot of nice families over the years. The kids have always been fantastic to deal with. To give back, it’s fun to do that … it’s amazing how time has just flown by.”
The dozens of home runs hit and plays made over the years have mostly become a blur. A couple memories that stick out for Niketas are the 2010 season, when son Chris’ team qualified for provincials, and two years later when the same group made it back to provincials and reached the semifinals before losing to White Rock.
While this is his last season coaching with Beacon Hill, baseball will always remain a part of this longtime volunteer’s life.
“It’s been a lot of fun. That’s why I do it, because it makes me feel like a kid again when I get out there and show them how to play,” he said. He hopes to continue to volunteer with the league in an administrative role in the future.