Local slo-pitch member honoured during weekend event: 'Everyone loved Mike'

Slo-pitch lovers in North Bay dusted off their bats for the first time this year to honour past member Mike Lalonde.

"Mike would like this," said umpire Kim Malkowski who has known the Lalonde family for years.

"He was a very big ball person, which is why we named it after him, and he would like this kind of thing, that it's going on and that he's doing some good out of all of this."

Typically the Nipissing Slo-Pitch Association would hold a 50 plus team tournament in Lalonde's memory, but with COVID-19, the association had to get creative to ensure they could still play and raise money.

"We're following provincial regulations and we're following specific city regulations as well as NSA which is where our insurance is," explained event organizer Sam Harvey.

"Some of them are not having anyone in the dug outs, staying 6-feet apart, people are not sharing bats, we have a ball specific to the side - they switch balls each at bat. We're also not allowing spectators here until 1:30 [on Saturday] just to prevent going over our gathering limit."

Lysol wipes and spray were also on hand for equipment and benches.

The association has been planning the mini-league for months and now that it is finally here, officials and players are excited.

"Everyone's happy. There's some normalcy to this, even with our precautions," said Harvey.

"It's nice even for me to see some of these people I haven't seen in a long time."

Malowski adds, "It's different. We used to run five parks and have the big spectators and a beer tent and everything. You can see looking around that there's no spectators, we're running at two parks. It's really gone down in terms of the number of people and size, but it's still running so good for them."

The weekend has been turned into a mini-league and is operating in a pod system to minimize person-to-person contact.

"So we are at 28 teams and they're all local. We usually have close to 50 teams when we draw in from out of town. So we have 28 teams at 14 player per team," said Harvey.

"The number is still going because we are selling old merchandise from previous years. We are offering $10 a game for unlimited home runs, $10 for unlimited courtesies, so we might get close to the 7k mark. That's our goal."

On top of remembering Lalonde throughout the weekend and being able to finally play ball, the event is also raising money for seven local charities.

The charities that will be receiving money are the Canadian Cancer Society, Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer, Near North Palliative Care Network, Nipissing Serenity Hospice, Hospital Foundation, One Kids Place and North Bay and Area Community Foundation.

"We've also given money to specific people that we've known through slo-pitch that are going through the cancer thing," said Malkowski.  

"So it's been real good community wise, just passing the love around."