McMorris brothers inaugurate Celebrity Slow Pitch tournament in Regina

Regina brothers Mark and Craig McMorris kicked off their inaugural McMorris Foundation Celebrity Slow Pitch Tournament on Friday with a cast of professional athletes and Olympians by their side.

All funds raised at the new, annual event will be donated to Canadian Tire Jumpstart

Mark and Craig McMorris debuted their inaugural Celebrity Slow Pitch Tournament on Monday at Douglas Park. (McMorris Foundation)

Regina brothers Mark and Craig McMorris kicked off their inaugural McMorris Foundation Celebrity Slow Pitch Tournament on Friday with a cast of professional athletes and Olympians by their side. 

Traditionally, the brothers hold a gala during the winter months, but they decided to "shake things up" this year and host a summer tournament instead. 

The event was a chance for the community to hit the diamond with celebrities including Regina-born hockey star Jordan Eberle and Olympians such as hockey player Natalie Spooner and bobsledder Kaillie Humphries, along with a cast of ESPN and X Games personalities.

All the money raised at the tournament will be donated to Canadian Tire Jumpstart to get more youth involved in sports. 

CBC's Hailey Salvian caught up with the brothers before the first pitch was lobbed. 

Q&A with Craig and Mark McMorris

Let's say it's grade school again, and we are playing at recess. What celebrity guest is getting picked last?

CM: Oh that's a great question and I'm going to answer that diplomatically. I would be the one getting picked last. I'm not very fast or athletic.

MM: Craig is very fast and athletic, everybody here is. We've got a bunch of athletes. There's nobody getting picked last here! I'm looking forward to it. People in Saskatchewan know how to ball, softball that is.

OK then, who is getting picked first, because if I'm captain I'm picking Kaillie Humphries.

CM: I mean I think she would be a good pick from home plate to first, probably one of the fastest athletes out there, but she doesn't have that much softball experience. So I think you'd maybe look for ESPN host Brandon Graham who grew up playing softball.

MM: Yeah, he was looking really good in the warm-ups. Brandon Graham hailing all the way from Austin, Texas. Very cool to have some of these guys in town.

Clearly this isn't recess in grade school . It's your charity tournament, so can you guys tell me a bit about what you're doing here?

CM: So what we're doing is raising funds for youth to get involved with sport. That's going to pay for equipment , registration fees, and how we do that is through our McMorris Foundation. We started that in 2012 and have donated to Canadian Tire Jumpstart ever since then and that just gets kids involved in sport, and it's a great cause. And the people of Saskatchewan are so generous and have been so generous and we can't thank them enough.

MM: Exactly what Craig said. We're really lucky to have been given the opportunity to bring people together and actually raise funds and have a good time. We need to get the less fortunate involved because you learn a lot of life lessons through sport. So we're glad to be doing it.

Since 2012, the McMorris brothers have held a gala for their foundation, but this year they decided on a slow pitch tournament. (Mike Zartler/CBC News)

This is the first time you've done a tournament instead of a winter gala. Why the change?

CM: We just wanted to switch it up. We've been doing the gala as I said since 2012 and its great it raises a lot of funds, but I know we can raise more. So we thought why not make it bigger. Let's get more foot traffic, let's double our silent auction, let's get way more people involved than just a one-evening thing. So we thought softball tournament was a lot more inclusive than golf. 

A lot of professional athletes are here. Why was it important for you guys to bring all these celebrities to the community?

CM: All these celebrities feel the same way about getting kids involved with sport, and they were willing to give their time. And that's the coolest part because if you pay for a team to be in the softball tournament then you get a celebrity on your team. How cool is that you get to play softball with Jordan Eberle?

MM: Coming from Saskatchewan these celebrities sometimes felt so far out of reach for Craig and I —  like a pro snow boarder. I had never seen one, and to have pro snow boarders, NHLers, Olympians here for these Regina kids to come see and be inspired by is really important and I know I would have valued that very highly as a kid

Regina-born Jordan Eberle was among the many athletes at the McMorris Foundation tournament on Friday. (Mike Zartler/CBC News)

What was your pitch to have them come out here?

MM: I think we just reached out to friends. We've known all these people for over five years almost. Jordan had me involved in his fundraiser four years ago. We just had all these little ties and ins. We're glad that everybody showed up. It's a pretty insane the turnout. I'm inspired right now. I'm fanning out.