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Northern Manitoba athletes and coaches representing their province at Canada Summer Games

10 softball players and coaches from Cross Lake and Norway House currently battling the country’s best softball players in Niagara, Ont.
team manitoba softball canada games aug 2022 by ron planche
Ten players and coaches from Norway House and Cross Lake are representing Manitoba in male softball at the 2022 Canada Games in Niagara, Ont.

They haven’t been getting the results they want on the field but Team Manitoba softball players at the Canada Games ini Niagara, Ont. say it’s a great experience to test themselves against the top under-22 players from across the country.

Northern Manitoba is well represented on the team, with one coach each from Cross Lake and Norway House and several players from each community as well.

They started out the right way with a win on Aug. 16, says coach David Muswaggon of Cross Lake, who previously coached softball at the 2017 Manitoba Games. That was followed by a loss in their second game that day and then an extra innings setback to Quebec to start the second day, a game in which Manitoba came back from 6-1 down to the tie the game.

“The whole event is a marathon,” said Muswaggon, with two games a day making keeping players fuelled up and dealing with their injuries the top priorities. “It’s an all-out effort every game. Every game is a tough game.”

The thought of facing off against Canada’s best players gave Henry Muchikekwanape of Norway House the butterflies while travelling to Niagara and waiting for the first game to begin, but once he got on the field, things settled down.

“You get all the nerves out right when you get into the warmups,” he said.

Although he rates his own play as pretty good for the most part, Muchikekwanape says you need to almost be perfect, pointing to the one-run loss to Quebec as an example.

“One error can kill us,” he said. “Canada Summer Games is nothing like rez ball. You gotta be ready. Mentally and physically.”

Nathan Burge of Cross Lake says the squad wins or loses together.

“We all click like a band of brothers,” he says.

Personally, he was hoping that the offensive side of his game would catch up with his defence after their first four games.

“I’m doing good defensively,” he says. “But not my batting, not so good. I’ve got to pick that up.”

Meeting players from outside the city has been a big upside for Dylan Morden of Winnipeg.

“We’re not doing the best or what we expected but still having a super-fun time and trying to battle through these games,” he said, mentioning heat and humidity as big factors to contend with. “I would have never met some of these guys that live up in Cross Lake. I’m happy that I have.”

Coach Leslie McKay of Norway House knows that the memories his players make will be with them forever because he was a member of Manitoba’s softball team in 2005.

“It’s almost like a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said. “80, 90 per cent of the guys that make this team will only have one opportunity to attend a games. I’m very grateful to be here and I’m sure every single athlete here to attend this tournament is very grateful for the opportunity. Not a lot of kids will get to see this kind of opportunity.”

The Canada Games and the male softball tournament both wrap up Aug. 21.