Local baseball tournaments have made their return to Orillia's diamonds for the first time in two years.
This weekend is the Buck Pringle tournament named in honour of the late, lifelong baseball volunteer. The tournament has brought 13 teams to Orillia for the three-day set at Kitchener Park, the Jerry Udell Diamond and the Cliff Yeo Diamond.
Teams have travelled from as far as Waterford and as close as Innisfil. There are two Orillia teams playing in this weekend’s tournament, one in each division of U18 and U13.
Orillia Legion Minor Baseball president Wes Winkel says having tournaments back is fantastic for everyone involved.
“Tournaments are the best in baseball,” he said. “Everyone gets together, there is a great sense of community, and it brings business to our area in a great, big way.”
Winkel says travelling teams stay in Orillia hotels, eat at Orillia restaurants, and enjoy the amenities in the Sunshine City.
“The players enjoy the camaraderie that comes with playing in a tournament,” he said. “It’s a lot of baseball and everybody loves it.”
Orillia Royals U18 starting pitcher James Pritchard says it has been “awesome” taking the diamond for tournament action this weekend.
“I’m so excited,” the 17-year-old said. “Having a tournament for the first time in two years is awesome, especially in your hometown.”
While the Royals have their sights set on winning the tournament, Pritchard says the main goal is to have fun.
“We get to play 14 innings in a day and are playing early in the morning and late at night,” he said. “Just hanging out with the boys all day is a lot of fun.”
Infielder Nathan Molloy said he and his teammates missed the tournaments during the pandemic.
“We missed just being together as a team,” he said. “It really sucked during COVID when we couldn’t all come together for weekend-long events like this.”
Playing in this weekend’s tournament in front of a home crowd is special for him.
“We’ve been getting a lot of supporters,” he said. “It helps us and makes us feel good.”
The championship finals will be held Sunday around 3 p.m. The tournament’s full schedule and game results can be found here.