National bragging rights for Canadian Aboriginal ballplayers will be decided in Winnipeg this weekend.
About 60 clubs are expected to participate in the Canadian Native Fastball Championships, which begin Friday and continue until Sunday in the Manitoba capital.
The national tournament will feature three divisions.
As of Wednesday, a schedule had yet to be released as tournament director Brian McKay was still finalizing the actual number of clubs that would take part.
The men’s division will feature about 25 teams. And the women’s category will have about 20 squads. And there will also be a men’s masters grouping, for those aged 40 and over, which is expected to have about 15 entrants.
Meanwhile, a proposed women’s masters division was cancelled.
“We had some calls about it,” McKay said. “But nobody entered.”
This year’s national tournament will feature representatives from six provinces. Besides Manitoba, also competing will be clubs from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec.
“I think this is the first year a team from Quebec has entered,” McKay said of the annual tournament, which was first staged in 1974.
Also participating will be a pair of Alberta teams that will be defending their titles. The Siksika Rebels captured the men’s division last year while the Red Nation Jets took top honors in the women’s category.
“They’re the defending champions,” McKay said of the Rebels and Jets. “I guess they would be the favourites now because you have to get by them first.”
Also worth keeping an eye on will be Darren Zack, a pitcher from Ontario’s Garden River First Nation. Zack is considered one of, if not the best Canadian fastball pitcher of all time. He’ll suit up for Ontario’s Ohsweken Redmen.
The national tournament is hosted by the McKay Masters Fastball Club. The team, previously called McKay United, was a powerhouse men’s side during the 1980s and ’90s. During those years the club had nine McKay brothers playing for it, including Brian.
McKay United was inducted into the Manitoba Softball Hall of Fame earlier this year.
Four of the brothers still play together and will be part of a team entered in the masters division at this year’s nationals.