Dan Philion ‘has a ball’ coaching a team of local Special Olympian baseball players every summer.
“I’ve been coaching for over 20 years,” said Philion, who oversees the Possamai Construction-sponsored team.
“Coaching this team makes me a better person. I’ve volunteered at different things, but this is probably the most rewarding of my volunteer activities. Their enthusiasm is infectious,” said Philion, a retired Metro employee, speaking to SooToday.
“They’re a great bunch of athletes who used to play up at North Street, then we invited them to come into our league to play, and now they’re a competitive team of their own,” said Tom Brown, who plays ball and serves in several capacities with the Ken McBride Over 40 Fun Slo-Pitch League.
“We have a blast. We modified the rules so we can have fun. We’ve got some guys in their 70s...there are no league standings, we just have fun,” said Brown, a Pino’s Get Fresh employee.
The league currently consists of four teams (Possamai Construction, the Bandits, which is Brown’s team, the New A and the Misfits, which is a mix of Sault College and Algoma University staff), which play Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Queen Elizabeth Field on Churchill Boulevard.
There are 16 athletes, all male, on the Possamai team, Brown said (though females are more than welcome to play on each of the league’s teams, and some indeed do).
“At the end of the season, which is usually the first Saturday after Labour Day, we have a one day tournament where everybody plays two games, then we go to a bar and have a bite to eat and give out prizes,” Brown said.
“I love it, organizing things and getting involved and coming out here with all these people, playing ball, joking around and having fun. It’s like a family. It isn’t like we go home and say ‘see you next week.’ We go to Greyhound games, coffee shops, the Legion. It’s like a family atmosphere.”
The Possamai team, which recently won a tournament on Manitoulin Island, includes some experienced, well known local Special Olympians, such as Harvey Arcangeletti.
“I started playing baseball on North Street in 1994, but I’ve been playing since 1985 with our Special Olympic group. We all joke and play and have a good time. We don’t work too hard at it,” Arcangeletti smiled.
“Everybody gets along, and since we’ve started playing together we’ve improved as players,” said Arcangeletti, 57, who has been involved in Special Olympics for 43 years.
“I like track and field, and hockey...with baseball I just like keeping fit and having fun with the guys,” said Arcangeletti prior to a Thursday game against the league’s Misfits team.
“Baseball is fun, these guys are fun, the other teams like playing with us. It’s a good sport,” said Warren Diotte, 62, who has played with the Possamai team for the last decade.