Cheers and encouraging words filled the St. Paul Ball Diamonds this past weekend at the 24th annual Conrad Jean Slo-Pitch Tournament. The annual event welcomes teams from across the province and beyond, and this year, 10 teams made up the schedule for the Special Olympics tournament.
The cool and windy weather on Saturday wasn’t great and did include some rain, says tournament organizer Conrad Jean, but for the final games on Sunday, the weather was just fine for the many enthusiastic athletes.
The tournament schedule included two teams from St. Paul, each playing in a different division. At the last minute, a team from Red Deer also showed up, explains Jean. And in the true spirit of Special Olympics, although the team wasn’t registered, efforts were made to include each of the players into other teams, to ensure everyone was given the chance to play.
Whether a team came in first place, or near the bottom of the rankings, loud cheers could be heard for all the teams at the tournament’s closing ceremonies on Sunday.
According to St. Paul RCMP member Cst. Tammy Protasiwich, the Conrad Jean tournament “reminds me of why sports is suppose to be fun.” She added that watching the players take part in the slo-pitch tournament was truly an “inspiration.”
The unregistered team from Red Deer was awarded the RCMP-sponsored trophy for the most sportsmanlike team. Also, it was Tim Roberts from Red Deer who would take home the Conrad Jean MVP award.
“I had a blast. This was a great weekend,” said Janine Fraser, a board member with Special Olympics Alberta, who was in attendance throughout the weekend. The event also includes a Saturday night banquet, which allowed for organizers, volunteers, and of course, ball players, to socialize off the ball diamonds.
Next year will be the 25th anniversary for the annual ball tournament in St. Paul, explained Jean. And at the closing ceremonies, he told athletes and coaches to “spread the word” and noted that organizers are hoping to welcome 25 Special Olympics slo-pitch teams to St. Paul in honour of the milestone next summer.
“Twenty-five years means a lot to a lot of people,” said Jean. He added a special thank-you to the many local volunteers who come out to the tournament each year, ensuring the event is a success.
“It takes a lot of people a lot of hours to put on an event like this,” said Jean as he bid farewell to everyone for another year.
“See you next year.”
Results of the 24th Conrad Jean Slo-Pitch Tournament were also announced on Sunday. Results are as follows:
First place – Regina
Second place – St. Paul
Third place – Edmonton
First place – Camrose
Second place – St. Albert
Third place – Westlock
First place – Edmonton
Second place – St. Albert
Third place – St. Paul
Fourth place – Regina