By Mick Jensen
There were more than 30 competitive teams and over 1000 regular players in the heyday of Mid Canterbury softball.
The sport flourished in the 1980s and early 1990s and provided a sporting and social outlet for locals.
Mid Canterbury Softball Association (MCSA) was founded 40 years ago and supported the game and an overdue reunion of players, officials and supporters is planned over Labour Weekend.
Among those involved in the sport in those early days were Neville and Maureen Trueman.
Mr Trueman played the game and coached it.
Now 85, the former Canterbury representative player and New Zealand triallist said he was looking forward to catching up with softball mates from the old days.
“Softball has been a big part of our life. Our three daughters started playing the game at Ashburton College and I coached and played.
“Local numbers grew quickly and so did the standard of the game here,” said Mr Trueman.
The popularity of softball was helped by the fact that the New Zealand team was world beaters.
Mr Trueman said his daughter Suzy had played at a high level and was still a pitching coach in Christchurch.
Argyle Park had been the home of softball from day one and remained so today, he said.
The venue had hosted games on seven or eight diamonds simultaneously, including a showcase skin diamond covered with lime.
“The association has always been family orientated and there were junior, colt and seniors teams playing week in week out during the season.”
Another person with a long-standing connection with MCSA is David Waaka.
Mr Waaka said the 40-year celebration was the first softball reunion in the district.
Softball and t-ball numbers were ticking along today, but were nothing like the big numbers 30 years ago.
He said a lot of people had played and enjoyed an association with softball clubs like Tinwald, GT United, Fairfield, Technical, Hampstead, Rakaia and others.
Teams from the district had enjoyed regular trips to competitions around the country, where some had claimed divisional honours.
The softball reunion begins with an informal gathering, drinks and finger food at the Ashburton Club & MSA on October 19.
A number of nostalgic photo and media displays will be set up.
The action will switch to the Hampstead Rugby Club grounds on Saturday for mixed, age-group games.
Reunion organising committee member Mark Argyle said participants were invited to turn out for their club of origin.
“Some people switched clubs, but we’re keen to have people join in to play for their first ever team.
“We’ll probably play three games at the same time, including games on a skin diamond.”
He said on Sunday a locally selected team would take on a visiting team from Christchurch at 2pm at Hampstead.
Events on both Saturday and Sunday will include an on site barbecue.
Registration and payment for the reunion events can be made by contacting David Waaka on 027 351 9769.
More information on the MCSA Facebook page.