The West Kootenay Senior Slopitch squad is taking their game to new level with an upcoming date in the 2022 Canada 55-plus Senior Games in Kamloops.
Team West Kootenay, consisting of players from Nelson, Castlegar, Trail, Rossland and Kelowna, begin play Tuesday at the Canadian Senior Games with a contest against Team Ontario.
“It’s competitive but not as competitive if a person was 20 years old," said Team West Kootenay manager Joe Capriglione.
"There’s a compassionate vibe . . . you play intensely, but you make friends because nobody wants to get hurt."
Team West Kootenay enters the tournament with a gold medal finish at the BC Senior Games hosted by Kimberley-Cranbrook in 2018. The squad followed the medal with a silver in Kelowna at the 2019 BC 55-plus Senior Games.
Team West Kootenay did not play the past two years as COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of BC Senior Games in 2020 and 2021.
“When the team went to Kelowna, I didn’t expect much of a result as it's getting more difficult to find 15 people that want to play," Capriglione explains.
Team West Kootenay team competes in mixed slopitch sport, where teams must have seven men and three women on the field at any given time, and all participants must have turned 55 that year, at the very youngest.
Slo-pitch has been part of Capriglione’s life for decades.
“I spent 25 years in Nelson playing in the mixed slow-pitch league and I was with the same team from day one.”
At the Canadian championships next month, the best across the country will come to Kamloops to play ball.
“The top two teams from each province will be there,” says Capriglione.
After Team Ontario Tuesday, Team West Kootenay plays host Kamloops later that day.
On Wednesday, Team West Kootenay meets Team Saskatchewan and Team Vancouver Island to conclude the round robin draw.
The teams enter the single-knockout playoff draw Thursday with medal round games going Friday followed by award ceremonies.
“In the round robin, we tied (Team Kamloops), and in the finals, (Team Kamloops) beat us,” Capriglione said when asked about the 2019 BC Senior Games Gold Medal winner.
Capriglione is unsure the scouting report regarding the other teams in the competition but expects to see good competition at the Canadians.
In the BC summer games,Team West Kootenay knows the caliber of teams from Cranbrook and Creston but, “you have no idea when you show up who you’re playing.”
Team West Kootenay is coached by John Motto of Trail, who initially organized the squad and Lorne Wuori of Nelson.
Capriglione said the coaches, who prefer to instruct from the coaching boxes, only are inserted into the lineup if one of the players is hurt.
Capriglione has coached for so many years that he’s enjoying just being a player for the time being.
The team has been practicing weekly and playing warmup games against Creston to prepare for the games as well as participated in the Salmo Canada Day Slopitch tournament.
Playing against the top local teams from the region, Team West Kootenay won the C event.
"It was a really good tournament for us,"Capriglione said.
"We didn't expect much and ended up losing in extra innings to the eventual A-event winner and won $700 so that was nice."
The Kamloops 2022 Canada 55-plus games will feature 2,500 senior competitors from across Canada competing in 26 events, including Pickeball, Lawn Bowling, Scrabble, Hockey, Golf, Dragon Boat racing and Darts to name a few.
Slopitch is being played in two divisions — 55-plus and 65-plus.
There are 10 teams in the 55-plus slopitch sport.
The Salmo Canada Day C-even winning Team West Kootenay Senior Slopitch includes, back row, L-R, Barry Benner, Steve Cutts, Mike Roch, Joe Capriglione, Kevin Melanson, Edie St Arnaud, Loni D’Andrea and Lorne Wuori. Front, Wayne Germaine, Luree Gould, Marian Shlakof, John Mota, Janice Melanson and Chris Mota. — Submitted photo