Colby Geiger delivers a pitch for the Vernon Canadians against the Kamloops Riverdogs Selects Saturday at Canada Games Park in Kamloops. The C’s lost 11-1. (Murray Mitchell Photo)

Canadians rally around Clint

Clint Parker loves baseball. A 36-year-old with Down Syndrome, he hit home runs to major cheers

They finished third in the Interior Midget AA Baseball Playdowns at McArthur Island Sports Centre in Kamloops.

And the Vernon Canadians couldn’t have done so well without 36-year-old ever-smiling Clint Parker in their dugout.

Parker, who has Down Syndrome, is the nephew of Vernon coach Carl Vardon. He lives in Kamloops and helps work the Canadians’ bench whenever they’re in town.

“Clint finished each game with the final at bat,” said Vardon. “He was 4-for-4 with a single and three home runs. Clint is a retired all-star power hitter for the Kamloops Special Olympics softball team. His smile and high-fives kept us going when things got tough. Both teams cheered Clint on and the fans gave him a standing O when he crossed the plate. I have to admit there may have been a tear or two shed. Baseball is a great game. It is inclusive of all ages and abilities. It goes to show that all you need to be great in this sport is determination and a big heart.”

Vardon said Parker has practised with the C’s this year and was relentless in his pursuit to get in the game.

“This year we made it happen. The Kamloops coaches were all for Clint getting the last at bat. The home runs were celebrated like a walk off.”

The C’s were shelled 13-0 by the Kamloops #3 Riverdogs in their tournament opener at Norbrock Stadium. Nakoda Parker had Vernon’s lone hit, while Kalvin Blaeser closed his minor ball career with a four-inning mound stint.

Vernon then bowed 11-1 to the Riverdogs Selects Saturday at Canada Games Park with Haydon Vardon supplying the Canadians’ only hit. Parker was hit by a pitch and later scored on an overthrow on a stolen base.

Matt Hansen took the loss, getting relief from Vardon and Colby Geiger.

Catcher Jake Crandlemire left the game after a devastating blow to the head from a foul tip. Rylan Henry took over and did a great job.

The Canadians grounded the #2 Riverdogs 13-5 in Game 3 at Canada Games Park with Liam Alstad going 3-for-4 with a double and a triple, scoring twice and producing one RBI.

Ryan Gamage rapped two singles, walked, scored twice and drove in one run, while Vardon supplied two singles, one ribbie and one run. Vardon allowed four runs in his final four innings of minor ball.

“This was the win we needed,” said Carl Vardon. “Our defence rallied behind our pitchers and the runs just rolled off the bats. From the start, the boys were back to hitting and stealing bases. The curse was finally broken. They team played great giving Kalvin Blaeser and Hayden Vardon one last win. Both boys left the tournament for a school event, leaving us with only 10 players for the final game.”

Vernon outlasted Kamloops #2 12-11 in the consolation final with Parker and Alstad both knocking in two runs and Geiger going 2-for-3 with a two-run triple.

Alstad provided two hits, a walk, two runs and two ribbies, while Hansen scored twice and drove in one run. Hansen went six innings before Alstad fanned two in the final inning for the win.

“Matt Hansen has developed into a fine starting pitcher leading the group for total pitches and strikeouts for the year,” said coach Vardon. “Closer Liam Alstad stepped into the role at the beginning of the season with little experience. His hard work throughout the season and his dogged determination for the win has given him the confidence needed to get on the mound and pitch with success.”

The 14-14 C’s carried sponsorship from Tolko, Marjak Leasing and Morgans Glass.