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Vernon baseballers proving age is just a number

Mike Sawka and Al Rutherford took home silver at the national 57 plus tournament
Mike Sawka (left) and Al Rutherford (right) suited up for the Oakville A’s in the Canadian National Oldtimers Baseball tournament hosted in Port Alberni. (Contributed)

Baseball is known as one of the oldest sports in modern history.

It’s fitting then, that two “old timers” from Vernon have been lighting up the sport.

Mike Sawka and Al Rutherford, aged 58 and 61 respectively, recently got back from the 57 plus Seniors Baseball National Championships in Port Alberni, where their team, the Oakville A’s, finished second.

“It was pretty amazing ,“ said Sawka. “The guys that we were playing in the 57 plus division, they are just spectacular ball players. My team and other teams, it was really hard to believe the quality of ball.”

Sawka added that Port Alberni’s support for the tournament was astounding, having near full crowds throughout the Aug. 4-6 weekend.

Rutherford is originally from the Toronto area and has been a member of the A’s for several years. When he saw that they were seeking another body for the tournament, Rutherford knew just who to call.

“Al is connected to those group of guys and because he plays with me here in Vernon, he noticed the quality of ball player that I am and said I would fit in really well with the A’s,” Sawka said.

The A’s also play in Florida during the fall, in a circuit league that is littered with ex ball and college players. Sawka, who isn’t fully retired, hopes to join the team down south this year.

Oakville won their first game, 15-0 over the 60 plus host Port Alberni Cubs. Their second game was an 8-4 victory over Comox. After splitting their next two, a 5-3 win over Dufferin Simcoe propelled the A’s in the final, where they ultimitely fell to the Cubs 6-1.

Rutherford, who is known as a crafty pitcher, and do-it-all infielder Sawka, still have much to play for this season. The two will be competing at the Men’s Baseball Provincial Championships in Maple Ridge during the Labour Day weekend.

“We will be playing against mostly 20- and 30-year-olds in that tournament, who are the top men’s baseball players in the province,” said Sawka.

The North Okanagan Baseball League (NOBL), where four teams compete, is where Sawka and Rutherford compete in during the majority of the season. Their team, the Vernon Blue Ribbons, won the championship for a second straight season, propelling them to the provincial tournament in Maple Ridge.

“I’ve never really stopped playing throughout my career, it’s been a mix of baseball and slo pitch,” Sawka explained. “But it was only a couple of years ago that I really got back into baseball because of that (NOBL) league.”

“It totally rekindled my love for the sport, and it is what keeps me young.”

For more information on the provincial championship, visit the Okanagan Spring Baseball League facebook.

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Bowen Assman

About the Author: Bowen Assman

I joined The Morning Star team in January 2023 as a reporter. Before that, I spent 10 months covering sports in Kelowna.
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