Lottery winners Marie and Kirby Fontaine are sponsoring the ball tournament. ((CBC))

A baseball tournament sponsored by a Manitoba couple who won $50 million in a lottery is generating renewed community spirit on the Sagkeeng First Nation.

"Oh, there's a buzz around here," Allister Courchene, a resident of the community, 150 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, told CBC News on the eve of the weekend-long tournament.

Marie and Kirby Fontaine, who won the Lotto Max jackpot in November 2009, are sponsoring the event.

Eighteen baseball teams have entered hoping to win the tournament top prize of $16,000.

The event has caught the interest of players from across Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.


The baseball diamond on the Sagkeeng First Nation has been spruced up in preparation for a weekend-long tournament. ((CBC))

Organizers say they are expecting upward of 2,000 spectators and players at the tournament.

Many in the community have pitched in to help organize the event and spruce up the local ball diamond.

"[It] brings people together, a gathering like this," Courchene said.

"Anything that brings our community together is important," Loretta Boyes, another resident, added.

Giving back

The Fontaines told CBC News they were moved to give something back to their home community.

"It's money," Marie Fontaine said. "But money's not everything."

The Fontaines also hope the event will spur the community to take up baseball again on a regular basis.

"We had a lot of ball teams from our reserve," Marie Fontaine noted. "It died off for a long time, so we thought we'd bring back fastball to our community, to present our community as some place that wants to show what we have."

Kirby Fontaine said his own father was passionate about the game, and the tournament is a good way to honour him.

"It'll bring me happiness," Fontaine said.

The Fontaines won the jackpot in November 2009. When he picked up the presentation cheque, Kirby Fontaine said he had bought the lottery ticket with his last $10.