In 1987, a little league baseball team consisting of players from Chemainus, Crofton, Saltair and Ladysmith captured considerable attention with a remarkable run to a provincial title and a runner-up finish in the Canadian championships.
Members of the Stuart Channel Little League baseball team, along with Chemainus umpire Roy Price, were in the spotlight among the latest additions to the North Cowichan-Duncan Sports Wall of Fame during induction ceremonies Saturday, Nov. 19, at the Cowichan Golf and Country Club.
The Stuart Channel Little Leaguers were all 11- and 12-year-olds at the time of an unprecedented accomplishment for local baseball teams. They’re all 47 now and have long reflected on the achievement from a different perspective ever since that captivated all the communities within the region.
“1987 was a long time ago, did you notice the size of those little leaguers?” quipped manager Mel Dorey. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime thing for the Cowichan Valley.”
In those days, it was considered a pipe dream to reach the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., especially for associations as small as Stuart Channel’s. And yet, the players came within one game of doing just that and with a little luck might have had the chance to face the best teams from around the world.
Dorey and assistant coach Mike Maloney took the team with an abundance of natural talent and moulded it into a powerful, cohesive unit.
The 1987 Canadian Little League championships came down to a wild finish. Stuart Channel had beaten Glace Bay, N.S., by an 8-2 score earlier in the tournament and all they had to do was beat them a second time, but instead the final ended in a heartbreaking 5-1 defeat.
Dorey remembers that game well. The wind was blowing toward the outfield and Glace Bay took full advantage.
“They had the lucky day. Two of their pop-ups went over the fence,” said Dorey.
He remembered players crying after the loss, but he told them, “No more crying, heads up high, you [have] nothing to cry about.”
The players received a nice prize when they got home, riding on a firetruck during a community celebration.
“How many of you ever rode in a firetruck?” asked Dorey. “That was something special.”
It was indeed a special time for baseball and how the community embraced the team, he added.
“This was a community team that went for it. We put a lot of time into this team and that nearly paid off.”
Members of the team included Randy Barker, Kirk Bonsall, Doug Cain, Chris Dice, Adam Dorey, Ken Lamberton, Ryan Maloney, Tim McKay, Bruce McMurtrie, Kary Price, Keith Valley and Brent Yarrow.
Some still live in the area and others have spread far and wide, but five players were in attendance to bask in the glory of their accomplishment and Wall of Fame induction.
The Little Leaguers and Price will be featured in the Wall of Fame display inside the Cowichan Aquatic Centre in Duncan and will also have paver stones on the new Walk of Fame outside the centre.
This year’s other inductees included: Sheron Chrysler (athletics), Garrett Elliott (fastball), Stan McKinlay (softball), Dano Thorne (soccer) and Ken Williams (soccer, posthumously).