Back when ball diamonds were a gal’s best friend

hown here is the 1985 Gene’s Jewellery Ladies Fastball team. In the back from left to right are: Coach Harry Ekkel

hown here is the 1985 Gene’s Jewellery Ladies Fastball team. In the back from left to right are: Coach Harry Ekkel

It was back in the roaring ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s that Ponoka and district was a hotbed of fastball for both men and women. Those were the great days of keen family participation, where you actually had to book a diamond for practice, and there were over 70 teams of all age groups playing lively games of softball or baseball seven days a week in front of large crowds.

One of the most popular leagues for both players and fans in those glory days around the ball diamonds was the Ponoka and District Ladies’ Fastball League, which during some of those torrid seasons featured close to 20 very competitive teams taking part. Moms and daughters and the occasional grandmother pulled on those tight and bright uniforms two or three nights a week and most weekends, and no matter what was at stake, everyone always went out for a real good time.

Fastball in those days was an inexpensive spring and summer fling for every member of the family, where everyone usually went to the game, then packed up the whole crew on Friday nights and headed out for the tournament weekends or Summer Games competitions. Each and every game featured lots of great action, keen camaraderie and hilarious shenanigans before and during the game and long after the final out was called.

What about the kids you ask? Bring them to the game, someone will baby-sit, maybe even dad, that is if he isn’t umpiring or coaching one of those wild and wonderful teams of very lively and talented ladies. After the game there was usually a wiener roast in someone’s back yard, with a few brewskys of course; while most of the local taverns offered special treats after the game to guys and gals in uniform, and believe me that was always a real blast, at least until the next morning.

Some of the super and always high-spirited teams involved in that sassy ladies’ league of days gone by included: Credit Union Cuties, Leland Hotel, Shooters, Moose Ladies, Fessler Shoes, Usona, Hobbema, Morningside, Falun, Alberta Hospital, Composite High School, Golden Gems, Hustlers and Gene’s Jewellery; and if I have forgotten any I am sure that you will let me know. One of the long-standing teams of ‘diamond dolls’ was Gene’s Jewellery, sponsored by avid Ponoka businessman and sports enthusiast Gene ‘Clockwork’ Caouette, who was required to watch the games from the car so that he didn’t jinx his charges.

In honour of that exciting fastball community tradition and of all those past team-mates, coaches, umpires and ardent fans, the Gene’s team will be hosting their first, and maybe even annual, gala reunion on Oct. 4, 2008. Among the cherished memories that will be shared in this celebration will likely be of so many great team efforts- whether won or lost, the infamous kidnap breakfasts, Marlene Perry’s classic metal pants, the parties, the leagues’ undisputed most team maternities record and on and on. Of course special toasts will also be made to each and every team and sponsor in that super league, as well as to those who have sadly passed away.

Gene’s Jewellery team members over a period of nearly 20 years included: Barb Dykstra, Barb Lillemo, Barb Lubers, Brenda Miller, Cheryl Lawrence, Christie Hoar, Colleen Jones, Dallas Sieben, Diane Bishop, Fern Torgerson, Ina Rodenberg-Hart, Janice Reglin (Ragan), Joan Conroy, Kathy Remyn, Kim Tebb, Laura Bell, Laura Morrison, Lenora Jacobson, Leona Ekkel, Lorna Rost, Lorraine Way, Lynn Christenson, Lynn Lawrence, Lynn Miller, Marg Barr, Marilyn Bednar, Marilyn Caouette, Marlene Paradis, Marlene Perry, Pearl Doupe, Rochelle Spivak, Sheila Komisar, Sheila Wilkie, Sherry Swanson, Ski Thompson, Sue Pascar, Susan Jess, Tammy Amendt, Trudy Lindstrun, Val Emberg, Wendy Elofson, Wendy Peavoy, Carla Prediger, Micha Rose, Chris Heidt; and their very patient coaches Dale Lillemo, Mike Perry, Jake McMillan, Carol and Chuck Adcock, Carl Jacobson, Ralph Perry, Jim Torgerson, Ray Miller, Harry Ekkel and Jack Moore.

I will never forget those fabulous years of fastball frenzy in and around our community, having played and cheered for close to 30 years with some great characters, as well as enjoying the unique opportunity of coaching one of those ladies’ teams for just a few hectic seasons. I quickly learned that they don’t like pushups, and you don’t dare bench your wife or your girlfriend for to many innings. There are still a few Ponoka and district teams carrying on those proud traditions on our ball diamonds these days, and I am sure if you look up in the stands you will spy some of those old stars of the past cheering on your efforts.