Taymouth Tigers bringing small-town dreams to Canada Games

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Taymouth Tigers bringing small-town dreams to Canada Games

Laughter echoes from the community centre in Taymouth, N.B., as video of seven local softball players is screened in front of a potluck lunch celebrating the athletes.

The softball program in the small community, about 35 kilometres north of Fredericton, is contributing 40 per cent of New Brunswick's Canada Games roster this summer.

Pitcher Eric Young is one of the seven Taymouth Tigers who will travel to Winnipeg later this month to complete in the games. 

"It's a good community sport. It's a lot of small town communities, which is what we are," said Young, who hails from English Settlement and comes from a family of softball players. 

All in the family

"My father was always a softball pitcher," he said. "It runs in the family. All his brothers play and we all love it."

To find the proof of the family's proficiency in the sport, you needn't look further than his cousin Abigayle Young — the Tiger's sole female contribution to the provincial team.

She has an idea about why the sport is in their blood.

"Maybe because we're so competitive with each other, we have to one up each other ... It's part of who we are as a family," she said.

The team is personal to Abigayle Young's father Mark as well. His family lives next door to the Tigers' field, where he's coached and tended to the field for years.

"I know almost all the boys on the team. I know a majority of the girls that play on Abigayle's team just from being around their program. It's a very proud moment actually to see them doing so well," he said.

Canada Games in the blood

While the Youngs have softball in their blood, shortstop Cole Spilman has the games itself in his.

"My dad, he's always played many sports. He played in the Canada Games in '87 for basketball," said Spilman.

Spilman said his father has been giving him tips based on that first-hand experience.

"It's a really big deal. He's competed in it and he knows what to expect," said Spilman. "Not only for me, but he's able to let our entire team know just what to expect and how to perform when the time comes."

Small-town success

How does a softball program based in a small province, based in an even smaller out-of-the-way community, account for this success? For Spilman the answer is simple.

"We're all a good bunch of athletes," said Spilman. "We all try hard and we've all played with the same group of guys since we started."

The players are under no delusions, they don't expect an easy road to gold at the games.

"Ontario and Newfoundland are always really good teams," said Eric Young.

"Newfoundland has a bunch of small town communities that they just live and breathe softball. Ontario has a lot of players to choose from so they have an advantage in that sense."

A strategy, and a warning

But they have a strategy.

"If we go into this Canada Games with the right mindset and the right attitude and just play every game at the best of our abilities we might be able to surprise a few teams there," said Spilman.

The team also comes with a warning.

"We may be from a small province, with a lot of us from small communities, but watch out. We might surprise you," said Spilman.