PIF Air Transat Holiday Classic

Long Haul/Taylor Bros/Shen Corp/TPS is crowned the 27th Pif Departe Champion 2002 in one of the World’s most prestigious tournaments.  Before I get into the tournament I want to tell you what this tournament is all about.  The “Pif” is a happening, a festival, it’s an event with a huge gathering of people and a softball tournament.  The people came out not just to watch softball, but to enjoy the festivities as well.  Games for all the kids along with live entertainment for the adults, great food and drink, especially the poutine, french fries, cheese curds and gravy that their country is noted for, spectacular fireworks choreographed to music that you might only see in the NY Harbor on the 4th of July.  The site of 10,000 balloons sailing into the blue yonder was an amazing wonder as the ball players and fans gazed into the sky as the sun was setting watching them rise above the mountains as if reaching out to touch someone.  What a breathtaking! in moment!!  Not taking anything away from the Dudley or the Great Smoky Mountain Classic that begins this coming Friday night there’s no question in my opinion and many others who were there I’m sure that this is the most spectacular tournament in the World.  Our neighbors from the north should stand proud for what they accomplished with all their hard work and dedication.  The staff at the Pif are the warmest and nicest hosts that you would ever want to meet.  They are friendly, courteous, respectful, and truly care about people and about getting things done right to make this a very special event.  The format used this year was a great idea by the committee, to have a Canadian team in the finals to keep the large crowd throughout Sunday.  I totally believe that this was the right decision on Friday night to put in the homerun limit, which was the right move.  The problem was that with the dimensions of the field in the middle being only! 340′ in the gaps & 340′ to center the ball was too strong for those fields. It was okay down the lines at 345′, but just too small in the middle on all fields.  We have played four WSL/NSA tournaments up to this one, and the middle of the diamonds were mostly 360′ to 375′ in the gaps, and 400′ to center. Obviously using the same ball we have been using, a .44 core 525 lb. compressed, was just too good for these smaller fields that we played on this weekend, and that is why the homerun rule was put in to place.

This tournament consisted of  USA teams, the Canadian teams and the Women’s Division.  The USA Division was won by Long Haul/Taylor Bros/Shen Corp/TPS.  The Long Haul bunch got it going early on Friday night and rolled through this division.  Long Haul seemed to do the right things it takes to win these homerun limited tournaments.  They base hit it and got plenty of 3 run homeruns and a whole bunch of grand slams on route to the Championship.  They were led by MVP of the tournament Rusty Bumgardner and got great support from the rest of the Long Haul ball club.  They played extremely good defense that shut down their opponents, which makes it that much easier to win when they catch the ball.  After winning the USA Division the Long Haul boys waited to see who would be their opponent from the Canadian Division.  Before I get into what Canadian team got to the finals, let me tell you about the rest of the USA Division teams. Chase/Reece/Roosters/Easton, who played extremely well all weekend, upset Hague/Resmondo/Walser/Worth in a second round game and rolled to the winner’s bracket finals and tried to make it another upset, but came up short.  Hague/Resmondo came charging out of the loser’s bracket and went on to get revenge on Chase and the right to meet Long Haul in the Championship in the US Division.  Long Haul scored enough and often in the Championship game, and Hague settled for the 2nd. place in the US Division.  Chase/Reece/Roosters/Easton ended up getting 3rd. place in the US Division and also collected the First Place $2,000 travel money.  Fourth spot in the US Division was Mid South/TPS, who had a very tough opener Friday night playing against Long Haul, but showed what kind of team they are as they charged back through the loser’s bracket and got the 2nd. place prize travel money of $1,500.  Rounding out the travel money National/De Marini & DJ/Mizuno collected! $750 each for their efforts in this WSL/NSA event.  The other US teams who played were Laser Vision/TPS and the Canadian team that replaced Smokes who backed out last week Duro Vitres/Eperviers/Easton who are out of the Quebec area.  Saturday night the Homerun Derby was one of the most exciting derbies at the Pif in years. Jeff Wallace, Rusty Bumgardner and Jimmy DeVine were all tied at 6 each after going through the 15 hitters that had entered.  The playoff started with DeVine hitting first and it consisted of the best out of 5 swings.  DeVine hit 3, Bumgardner hit 3 and Wallace won it by hitting four and collected $1,000 for his effort before a huge crowd before the fireworks.  In the Canadian Division of this tournament the winner was a very good Canadian A team called Lloyd’s from London, Ontario who could play and be competitive against a lot of USA A & B teams.  They have a lot of talented players who can play the game of softball! .  I can tell you that the Canadian teams are getting better and better each year, and you could tell by watching that they’ve been working at their game.  This was the first time that the Canadian teams were exposed to 90′ bases. They adapted very well on defense playing the game in these conditions.  I give them a lot of credit for participating in this great tournament.  This division was very competitive and the 2nd. place finisher was Pharm. Raymond Elias out of Montreal, Quebec who have big time players  Jaque Millier and Luke Chevette, which helps make them very competitive.  They battled extremely hard all weekend after losing their first game and came back to play against Lloyd’s in the Canadian Finals, which made for a Quebec/Ontario Championship game.  Third place finisher was the Henchemen team, another fine Canadian A team from Ontario, who came up a little short, but got the 3rd. place finish.  Fourth place went to Tlizen! Sports of Quebec.

In the Women’s Division Pennies/Gary Gray’s Body Work from Maryland repeat as “Pif Champions” as they beat The Athlete’s Foot to make it two in a row as “Pif Champions” in the Womens Division of this prestigious tournament.  This very good women’s team, Pennies once again drove 12 hours each way to participate in this great Pif tournament.  Pennies had to earn this win the hard way as the girls from Athlete’s Foot took Pennies to the “if” game before falling short and finished as runners-up in this one.  It was sure nice to see 3 American women’s teams competing in this tournament, and I can only say whoever reads this report from Women softball teams in the US, should make plans on attending the 2003 Women’s tournament at the Pif.  It keeps getting better year in and year out.  In Saturday night’s Homerun Derby before a large crowd Cheryl Aldrich from the Athlete’s Foot team won this event.  Congratulations to Cheryl.  Here is a list of the! e rest of the women’s teams who also participated at this tournament;  Phar.Marie-Claude LaPointe, Biermans, Express/LA Source Du Sport, Vacances Air Transat, Const. Alain Raiche & Corona.  I myself watched some of the first game of the Championship and witnessed the walk-off homerun that enabled Athlete’s Foot to force an “if” game.  I also got to see the end of the Championship game as Pennies celebrated with champagne bottles and great joy of winning for the second year in a row.  Great job girls!!!

I would like to say a special thank you to JC, Regis, Richard, Mike, Andre and the rest of the staff of the Pif for great hospitality from the beginning last January when we first met at Air Transat in Montreal to the Press Conference in Sherbrooke and to the greatest tournament in the World “The Pif”.  Thank You so much for everything you’ve done for me and my wife Joan. We will never forget our great friends from the north!