Heather Savitsky put hours into preparing the right words to praise longtime umpire Vic Rantio at his retirement party.
Turns out there was no retirement gathering at Alexander’s Beach Pub. They tricked Savitsky and then showered her with praise and the 2013 Kelly Roste Memorial Trophy, awarded by the Vernon Umpires Association for dedication and determination.
“I spent three days working on a three-page speech and then I walked in and Vic wasn’t even there,” laughed the fun-loving Savitsky. “I’m very honoured and I was actually speechless. I thought I was helping Wendy (umpire Filbrandt) on Vic’s retirement do. I called her some names she didn’t like.”
The trophy, presented in memory of Roste, a popular fastball player and umpire who died in a December, 1998 car accident, has gone to the likes of Keith Louis, Gary Roste (Kelly’s father), Dennis Einarson, Ann Holmes, Rob Ferroux and Jim Sanderson.
Chris Lynch, president of the umpires association, said the group unanimously selected Savitsky.
“Basically, Heather was involved in minor ball for so many years and was the guiding light for slo-pitch,” said Lynch. “She was the perfect choice. She has contributed to ball in many ways.”
Savitsky, the mother of two grown ball-playing daughters – Samantha, 24, and Robyn, 22 – has been a slo-pitch fixture in the area for 20 years.
“I played first base in mixed and shortstop in ladies and I coached,” she said. “I was injured in a collision with a guy at first base and had to stop playing.”
The Kamloops High grad of 1982 lost her left arm after complications during surgery, but hasn’t let that tragedy taint her positive attitude and love of people over the years.
She coaches co-ed teams – 19th year with the Ratz and seventh with the Okanagan Fever – and is the Slo-Pitch National (SPN) regional director. She has helped Bob Bishop put on at least eight provincial and two national championships.
“One of the most humble and heartfelt reasons I love my job so much, is running my Doug Massie Memorial Tournament every June. Next will be the fourth annual. The money raised over the weekend from the teams all dressed up in the year’s costume theme, and playing a crazy two-pitch format of slo-pitch, is incredible. Their support of the silent auction and just having fun makes it all worth doing every year.”
Massie, a highly popular player with the Fever, died on Aug. 20, 2010 from a brain aneurism at the age of 51.
Heather was coached as a kid by her parents until she started playing Rep fastball at age 12. She and husband Kevin moved to Vernon in 1993 and played together with the Ratz. The ever-smiling Kevin lost a courageous battle with cancer two years ago.
“Kev was the pitcher and comedian of the team,” chuckled Heather.
She plans to stay in the game for perhaps another 20 years.
“I love the game and all the people I’ve met from all over the country. I’ve been playing ball since I was five.”