Stories from softball
In case you weren’t able to make it or watch live on edmontonoilers.com, I’ll fill you in. The complete Oilers roster, including coaches and management, were joined by a dozen celebrities at TELUS Field in downtown Edmonton for the charity event. A home run derby and a pair of hot-stoves with media and coaches preceded a five-inning showcase of Edmonton’s finest softball stars.
… Okay, “finest” might be stretching it, but the players – Oiler and otherwise – ensured a fun afternoon for all in attendance. Camera-gal Nyki and I were tasked with documenting the game from the dugouts and, as such, were blessed with a unique perspective of the game.
Here are my highlights:
As one of the most promising up-and-comers on the Oilers blueline, Taylor Chorney’s athleticism is proven and he ranked high on my list of unsung softball heroes before the game. But upon witnessing his turn at bat during the Home Run Derby, I was forced to reconsider. Taylor swung valiantly at the pitches thrown by team PR Manager JJ Hebert, but the crack of a well-hit ball failed to fill the ballpark. He switched to the right side of the plate midway through his round, but the tactic was unsuccessful.
“Honestly, that was kind of embarrassing,” the disappointed d-man told me after returning to the Team Blue dugout. “I imagine I’ll be the only guy that swung and missed and almost fell over. I wish I would have decided to switch to right-handed a little bit sooner. I think that was probably a good decision, but after three strikes, it was a little too late.”
Yes, it sure was.
SMID STEPS IT UP
After an uninspiring first inning, Team Blue got the ball flying in the second, thanks in part to softball rookie Ladislav Smid. During his first at-bat of the game, the Czech export smacked a ground ball and then raced around to second base. With help from his teammates, he rounded home soon after and discussed the star-making moment with me at the dugout.
“I just didn’t want to be embarrassed, to be honest with you,” Ladislav breathlessly said. “This is my first professional softball game so I just want to be really focused on the ball and just try to hit it. … I think we had a pretty good start so we just have to keep it going. I would say the non-experienced guys hit the ball pretty well and now it’s up to veterans to finish the job.”
Another successful at bat for Smid shot him up the Team Blue batting order, and the rest is Oilers & Friends Softball Classic history.
While Ladislav surpassed low expectations, the same cannot be said for Andrew Cogliano, according to his teammates and opponents. Andrew, who made it clear that he is lacking in softball skills during a pre-game interview, struggled early in the contest and players on both teams took notice.
After a particularly ugly second inning in which Team Blue notched six runs, Team White’s Jason Strudwick placed the blame solely on his young teammate. “Tough inning. I say it started with Andrew Cogliano – he made a bad throw, he may have created an error on Sam Gagner’s run to third, trying to fill some space there. But he’s not a big baseball player so he doesn’t understand it.”
Back in the Team Blue dugout, Sam recalled the interaction between him and Andrew as he attempted to bolt between second and third. “I was actually making fun of him, saying he can’t play ball, but he seems to think he’s good enough to play second base. I don’t think so, but we’ll see what happens the rest of the game, see if he can prove himself.”
According to fellow Bluey Ladislav Smid, Cogliano failed to step up his game.
“I think (Team White is) pretty nervous. You can see it, especially on the infield,” Ladislav said. “Andrew Cogliano, I don’t think it’s his day today. You can see he’s battling. He doesn’t feel well today. We have to use him against them. I hope it’s going to be easy going game for us, a big win.”
Ladislav’s confidence was palpable, but a surprising turn of events after the third inning rattled his club and sent shockwaves through the stands.
With Team Blue owning a commanding lead (I didn’t mark down the exact score, but trust me – it was commandingly in favour of Team Blue), Team White Manager Pat Quinn, Team Blue Manager Tom Renney, and Umpire Bob Stauffer converged at home base. A heated conversation erupted, and within moments, the most shocking trade in Oilers & Friends Softball Classic history was complete.
In a deal that continues to confound softball experts across the continent, born-and-bred Blueys Tom Gilbert and Jamie Sale were traded for Team White’s Ales Hemsky. As disgruntled Tom and Jamie said their goodbyes, Hemsky emerged from the White dugout – in sandals.
Perfectly poised at the Blue dugout with Oilers GM – and softball puppet master – Steve Tambellini, I notified him that his newly acquired player is unable to actually PLAY in the game at hand. “We gave the responsibility to Tom Renney, and I’m going to have to have a little discussion with him when he gets back,” a perplexed Tambellini said. “The player is obviously not ready to play today, so I want to understand what his method was for trying to acquire such a player.”
No word yet on Renney’s future as Team Blue’s Dugout Manager.
As Team White’s Manager, Pat Quinn’s expectations following the trade were clear: he wanted his club to gain confidence from Tom Gilbert’s powerhouse hits and Jamie Sale’s lightning-quick sprinting to secure a come-from-behind win. But a comeback wasn’t in the cards at TELUS Field as Team Blue held on for a 15-5 victory.
Following the game, Team White’s Marc Pouliot was livid. “Tom and Sam played well (for Team Blue). We traded for Tom after but he didn’t play as well for us. … I think he just shut the books off after he got traded. He wanted Blue to win and afterwards, he didn’t try as hard for sure.”
When a reporter asked if Tom perhaps “sabotaged” Team White, Pouliot said, “Absolutely … Tom, c’mon!”
When notified of Marc’s allegations of sabotage, Tom retaliated. “(Team White’s) attitude on the bench was just terrible, and they really brought me down,” he said. “Both me and Jamie thought that, and I think that’s probably why we didn’t perform very well when we got over there, because it was mainly them. They weren’t cheering for each other, no high-fives. Team chemistry on the Blue team was a lot better.”
Tom then turned to his fans to sign autographs, quickly putting the loss behind him.
And that’s pretty much how it went down at TELUS Field today (minus the drama and intrigue, of course). I urge you to check out our video coverage of the event at oilers.nhl.tv, and be sure to visit us often in the next few weeks as we’ll be delivering unbeatable coverage on Oilers Rookie Camp, Training Camp, and pre-season games.