Whalley Little League celebrates its 60th anniversary
The 'Godfathers of Baseball' Orest Springenatic and Chuck Bailey built Whalley into national powerhouse
Whalley Little League, the baseball institution that has consistently produced championship teams at the district, provincial and national level, is heading into its 60th season.
Whalley has represented Canada at the Little League World Series five times and there isn't enough room in the indoor batting cage to display all the pennants and trophies that have piled up over the years.
"Whalley is one of the real gems of our community," said Surrey city councillor Bruce Hayne.
"It's not just the length of time that they've been around, but the quality of teams that they continue to produce is just amazing."
The Godfathers of Baseball
The credit for Whalley's success, which includes a dozen players drafted by Major League Baseball teams and an even longer list of college scholarships, is attributed to Orest Springenatic and Chuck Bailey.
Longtime Whalley coach Ed Myers says Springenatic emphasized teaching his players the fundamentals in 1956 and little has changed 60 years later.
"If you go to any park where they're holding tryouts, you can pick out a Whalley ball player by the way they pick up the ball and they way they throw the ball," Myers said.
The rec centre next to the ballpark is named after Bailey, who dedicated much of his life to Whalley Little League.
There is a photo tribute to Springenatic on the wall of the Round Up Cafe, just a few blocks away from where he used to coach.
Springenatic ran the restaurant with his wife Goldie, who still works in the kitchen.
"Orest wanted to keep all the kids in the baseball park so they were out of trouble," said Tanya Abendroth, who has worked at the Round Up for 40 years.
"If they couldn't afford to play, he would pay for them to play. If they couldn't afford to go to the World Series or wherever they were going, he would pay for them to go. He always took care of his kids."
Whalley President Gavin Burke has been busy for several months trying to round up up former players, coaches and volunteers to celebrate the league's 60th birthday.
He is planning an alumni game, bbq and party this summer.
"We're reaching out through Facebook and Twitter and we have lists of all the all-star teams going back to 1957 or 1958," Burke said.
"We're going through those lists and we're trying to contact those people, but it is a challenge."