For Vernon native Mark Deshane and his band of 11-and 12-year old Little Leaguers from Whalley, the provincial baseball final was their World Series.
There would be no trip to the Canadian championships which were cancelled due to COVID. And if they were fortunate enough to win there, it would result in the ultimate goal of every Little League player, coach and parent: a trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA.
When the final out of a 10-4 win over Victoria Layritz on their home turf – Orest Springenatic Field – was recorded, Deshane and his players celebrated the provincial title mightily.
“This was their World Series – that’s what the motto was going in, because we knew that we couldn’t go any further,” said Deshane, 58, who attended Mission Hill Elementary, Fulton Junior Secondary and Vernon Senior Secondary, graduating in 1981, while growing up in the North Okanagan. He played in Vernon Minor Baseball mostly as a first baseman.
After high school, Deshane found himself playing fastpitch softball at stops in Cranbrook and Vancouver, along with some slo-pitch before becoming a volunteer with Whalley Little League.
The retired WorkSafe B.C. manager has been on Whalley’s executive for 20 years, the last 10 as its vice-president. He coached his three sons through Whalley and while he never got to go to Williamsport, he did help guide provincial championship teams to the Junior Little League World Series in 2014 in Taylor, Mich., and the 2017 Senior World Series in Easley, South Carolina.
Keeping the kids playing through COVID became his main enterprise after his retirement.
“It’s been a long haul,” said Deshane. “To see it end with a win at the provincials after all the effort was quite a day. We didn’t know we were having tournaments in the summer, with the PHO (public health order) in place in the spring.
“We had practices only for a long time. Our games started May 29 and then the season was extended until the end of June. Everyone did a lot of heavy lifting to get this (provincial) tournament off the ground – the league and all the volunteers, parents, everyone.”
During the six-team provincial tournament, Deshane was given the Martha Dubroy Volunteer of the Year award for District 3.
“It has been my passion for a long time,” he said.
—-with files from Tom Zillich of the Surrey Now-Leader