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Slo-pitch tourney at a crossroads

Posted on August 15, 2013 by Taber Times

One of the longest continually-running mixed slo-pitch tournaments in North America just celebrated its 35th birthday this past weekend with its offering in Vauxhall this past weekend at various diamonds —whether it makes its 36th birthday has come into serious question.

“I love the weekend, no doubt about it. My daughter (Kendra) and I have talked and we have done some soul searching asking the question ‘why do we do this?’ The reasons will be different for each of us,” said Bob Miller, one of the main organizers of the Vauxhall Mixed Slo-pitch Tournament, in which his daughter was in charge of the draw of the 35th anniversary as Vauxhall local Lynda Unruh proved a driving force as well. “The reasons for me 35 years ago are not the reasons of today. There have been changes all the way through.”

Miller added, in a perfect world, the mixed slo-pitch tournament would be kept alive and be a function of the Spurs alumni association. The Spurs organization have made inroads into the tournament, helping out with the beer gardens and cabaret.

“They sort of have an association, but they don’t have a project. You have to have an annual project and to me this is a natural fit,” said Miller. “There was arguably 20 to 25 ex-spurs playing in the tournament over the course of the weekend and they’re there. It’s a slam dunk, but the question is how do we plant the seed so it germinates?”

Being in the excavating business and having his fingerprints all over recreation facilities in Taber and Vauxhall, it’s old hat for Miller as far as maintenance for the grounds for the tournament is concerned. It is a matter of if others want to become the student under Miller’s tutelage if the tournament is to carry on for a 36th year and beyond.

“There are all those little things that have evolved over 35 years that are easier for me to do than to delegate them down unless I was able to have two or three guys absolutely puppy dog me and see how it goes,” said Miller. “The role I have during the course of the tournament is different. You have to stay on top of it because you are spread out, you’re not in a quad. You have to go around and problems come up and if you’re on top of them, little problems don’t become big problems.”

Lynda Unruh announced 2013 would be her last year helping run the tournament, with the pressures of financials, handling cash, making sure liquor permits are in order along with liability concerns, Miller added long-time volunteers simply need a break.

“People can take things for granted. One thing is, people can say all these warm and fuzzy things three days of the year for the tournament on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But it’s all whisky talk,” said Miller. “For 362 days of the year it doesn’t come up where the people who are carrying it are myself, Lynda and my daughter. Next year, Kendra won’t be back here and I have no connection to who is playing here.”

With 20 teams lining the fields for the tournament this year with many Taberites playing, Miller added the tournament could explode given the right amount of elbow grease if the torch were to be passed to the younger generation.

“With Facebook, you could get 500 people in the matter of days. There are a bunch of roles with this that could be available. For me, the tournament is a culmination of summer, harvest is coming and it’s great chance for family and friends to catch up with each other and have a good time,” said Miller. “If you are interested in a cause, you show up. There are so many things in this tournament that can be added and it can mean so much to both Taber and Vauxhall.  If you had an increase in participation in any organization of just five or 10 per cent, how much more can you accomplish?”

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