The Elmira Expos are standing at the top of the South Perth Men’s Fastball League as they head into the annual Cephas Roth Tournament in Tavistock this weekend. Elmira is not only dominating at the local ball yards, however, as new this year, they will be heading to the Softball Canada championships in Nova Scotia later this summer.
For the Expos, playing at the nationals will be a new addition to their tour, which also sees them compete at the International Softball Congress World Tournament in Kitchener in August.
“We’ve been good this year. We’re 6-2 in our league. We just won the Ponsoby Tournament this past weekend, and we finished second in the ISC world qualifier,” said Travis Martin, one of the original members of the Elmira squad. The Expos was created as a men’s team, but has its roots going back to Martin and his friend’s peewee days.
The ISC tournament, which is being held in Kitchener, will see the Expos rubbing shoulders with some immense competition coming from across Canada and the States.
Locally, teams like the Kitchener Hallman Twins, the Six Nations United Chiefs, and the Toronto Batmen might prove to be Elmira’s toughest competition. Added to the mix are visitors such as the Los Angeles J&B Bombers, the Kansas City Monarchs and the Clifton Park New York Gremlins.
“It’s pretty much from all over Canada and the U.S. that teams comes from,” noted Martin.
However, against these challenging, and in many cases much larger teams, the Expos were able to hold their own at the world qualifier last month, ranking 11 out of the almost 50 teams battling it out. Their performance at the Qualifiers was easily enough to earn them a spot out of the 36 teams moving on to the world championship in Kitchener.
The Expos have been a regular at the ISC competitions, but for the first time in the team’s history, they will also be playing at the Men’s and Master Men’s Canadian Fast Pitch Championship, which is being held in St. Croix, N.S.
“We’ve been accepted to go as one of the teams from Ontario,” said long-time Expos coach Don Freeman, who shares the responsibility with co-coach Kevin Wellwood.
Freeman, it’s fair to say, has been involved with the Expos since before the Expos even existed, back when the team’s originals, like Travis Martin, were still playing in the kids’ leagues.
Freeman began coaching the players back when they were playing peewee. His son was part of the team, and as they grew up, Freeman frequently continued to mentor the kids. Eventually, the kids grew up and started their men’s team, the Elmira Expos, to continue playing the sport they enjoyed.
“When they got up to men’s group, the Expos pretty much asked me I’d come back to them, so I did. So anyways, I’ve been with the Expos ever since. Which is the original group of boys that came out of peewee,” said Freeman, though adds that the Expos have seen a number of new additions since then.
While the Canadian championships will be a new experience for the team, Freeman notes that’s not necessarily true of all the players.
“Back in midget we won back-to-back Canadian championships,” he recalled. “And then in junior we were second once, and third once at the Canadians. And now that we’re men’s, we only went to the ISCs – we’ve never gone to the Canadian championship for men’s.”
The Expos will be heading to Nova Scotia for the nationals, which run from August 29 to September 2. A little closer to home, the team will be playing at the Cephas Roth Tournament this weekend. However, the big event to go to, suggests Freeman, will be the ISC tournament in Kitchener, which will be at the Peter Hallman ball yard from August 11 to 18.
“There’s a group of fairly local teams that are going to be around at that time and at that week. So if you have any love for softball, come down and watch – we could always use a few fans cheering for us,” said Freeman.