Like clockwork, Don Breu would set up his lawn chair behind home plate to watch the pee wee ball players who came from across the province to play in the tournament named in his honour.
The tournament was first run in 1977 in honour of the tireless work long-time Ridge Meadows Minor Baseball Association executive member Breu had volunteered in establishing an active baseball community.
With his death in early April, the tournament’s name was changed to the Don Breu Memorial.
So as this year’s tournament was set to start last weekend, Don’s wife Juel and their son Derek were positioned behind home plate, keeping the tradition alive.
“For everyone in the baseball community in Ridge Meadows, Don was a legend,” said Wayne Morris, tournament organizer. “It was great to be able to get his family out.”
Cornelius Temple, president of the RMMBA, said the event had even more meaning as Sunday marked Juel’s birthday.
”It was so special,” he said. “We had a nice moment of silence for Don and then we were able to sing Juel happy birthday. The tournament was really well done.”
He said for everyone involved with RMMBA and with the teams that played in the tournament, Breu’s name holds a special meaning.
“It’s means something to the kids and the coaches, and more so this year with Don’s passing,” said Temple.
The players and coaches were also treated to a Larry Walker Jr. sighting. The former Montreal Expo and Colorado Rockies great stopped by to sign autographs and take pictures during the skills competition.
Walker is the only Canadian player to win an MLB MVP award, taking home the honour in 1997, when he hit .366 with 49 home runs, 130 RBI, and 33 stolen bases.
“It’s a real special treat for the kids, that’s for sure,” said Temple. “Even for the adults. To get a chance to get an autograph and have a picture taken is fantastic.”
On the field, the Ridge Meadows Royals ran their record to 3-1, but lost out on a chance to play in the playoffs due to a tie-breaker.
The Royals opened the pee wee AA baseball tournament Friday, losing 14-4 to the Cloverdale Spurs. Nathan Perley was the team’s game MVP with a hit and a solid game behind the plate.
The Royals bounced back Saturday and won their second game 9-5 over West Kelowna. Josh Morris was the team’s game MVP with two hits and two innings pitched with no earned runs. Hosea Wardrope also pitched two shutout innings in the victory.
Ridge won its third game 7-3 over Penticton, with Owen McCuaig winning game MVP with two solid hits and three runs scored.
In a consolation game, the Royals blanked Penticton, 8-0 on the strong pitching of Baron Gibbons, Ty Crowe and McCuaig. Takoda Nordquist also contributed with two doubles. Crowe and Nordquist were game MVPs.
The midget AAA Royals played the first game played on the newly renovated Hammond Stadium on Saturday.
The park underwent a more than $750,000 upgrade, allowing it to be used year round.
The game featured a match-up of rivals as the Royals played host to the Tri-City Indians in front of more than 100 fans and local dignitaries.
Chris Bailey got the ball for the Royals and threw six solid innings, allowing two runs.
The Royals jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the home half of the first inning.
The back-and-forth affair saw the Royals go ahead 4-2 in the bottom of the 6th inning.
However, a pair of walks in the seventh both scored.
The Royals had a chance to win the game in the bottom half of the inning after Nick Peters led off the inning with a triple, but he was stranded.
The Royals stranded another runner in the eighth.
In the ninth, Peters crushed the ball to left-centre, scoring pinch runner Santiago Torres, who subbed in for first baseman Domenic Baptista after he singled.
The Royals were 13-2 and in first place.