Napanee U20 Express win silver medal and hometown hearts

The Tavistock Athletics may have won the championship game against the Napanee Express, but the national title wasn’t the only meaningful reward taken home from the U20 Men’s Canadian Fast Pitch Championships held in Napanee this past week, August 2 to 7, 2022.

Express Catcher Joe Mick bumps fists with Cameron Thompson, age 6, while the team took time to play with young fans. “As the little brother of a Napanee Express ball player, Cameron has wanted nothing more than to be part of the ‘Team’ someday! Having the U20s take the time to really include the little up-and-comers was huge! Just being allowed on the diamond was a thrill. Joe Mick quickly became his favourite player!” said Cameron’s mom, Chantal Thompson. Submitted photo.

“Some people would say we didn’t win,” said proud Head Coach Cory Brooks. “But the way the team showed our community what we’re all about, as opposed to just the game, I think we won in the eyes of the younger kids.”

Of the loss of the gold medal, Brooks said, “Tavi is a very good team, and so are we. On any given day, one could flip the other. They had hot bats Sunday [Aug. 7].”

The silver medal Napanee squad made sure to stay after each game to play catch with young up-and-comers. “We made sure that we were talking to the kids, bent down on their level, ya know?” he said, noting he considers this an important component of legacy building.

Brooks expressed his gratitude to all the volunteers and fans that made the week such a success. “My brother [Bryan Brooks] was the chair of the tournament… he had everything under control and amazingly done. All the volunteers made the tournament go without a hiccup… The Napanee Kinsmen club [ran] the refreshment gardens. The canteen was run by my father-in-law, Brant Wilson, who everyone calls ‘Spud’ [owner of Spud’s Restaurant]… it was all absolutely amazing. And this was dropped on us [on] short notice.”

Napanee was originally slated to host in 2023 but was offered the hosting duty this year, as well, since the original host had to pull out.

Brooks pointed out, “We have it again next year, and we have lots of time to prepare ourselves: one, for the event; [and] two, to learn how to win at home. You know, it’s a little different. You get to sleep in your own bed, but… it’s a different atmosphere in Napanee when you have 70 to 100 people each game, watching you play… some players might have felt some pressure, [but the fans are] here to support us, not pressurize us.”

The Napanee Express silver medal squad. Submitted photo.

The turnout was phenomenal and the whole atmosphere was outstanding, Brooks said, calling it “one of the best [Canadian championships] I’ve been to” — and he has been to many in his 20 years of coaching, and as a player before that.

“It’s hard to three-peat,” said Brooks. “We won in 2019, and then COVID, and then we won the Easterns last year (no nationals were played due to the pandemic). You know, two golds and a silver in the last three times we’ve been to a championship is pretty successful. It’s just really cool to see these guys get back to the game.”

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