The Joe Varosi Softball Challenge is returning to the Prentice Park ball diamonds for the fifth year in a row. What started as a tribute game to a friend has turned into an annual event that has raised thousands of dollars for cancer research.
“It’s in memory of a gentleman by the name of Joe Varosi who was a good friend of mine,” said Dave Harrington, an organizer of the challenge. “He died of cancer five years ago. He was a big slow pitch fan, he liked to play slow pitch when he was younger and always enjoyed the game. I thought, after he passed away, a good way to raise funds for cancer would be to put on a slow pitch tournament in memory of him.”
The game is a fun-spirited game between two teams: the Has Beens and the Wannabes. The Has Beens team is comprised of players that are all over 50, and the Wannabes is the Wolfpack team from the Fernie Pub.
“We call it challenge. It’s not a tournament, it’s called the slow pitch challenge because what happened was a couple of older guys were sitting around in the Fernie Hotel one time, talking about the old days when we played slow pitch,” said Harrington. “Some younger guys were there, and they were on the Fernie Hotel slow pitch team. It basically came down to ‘We will take you guys on anytime you want’.”
Friendly smack talk has always been apart of the game. Kirsten LeBlanc, who plays with the Wannabes, said that it’s part of the fun. “It’s totally a fun time, those guys are awesome,” she said. “It’s just a fun day and a good cause. We definitely raise good money for the Cancer Society and remember Joe Varosi while we are doing it.”
This year, Harrington has a goal to raise a minimum $3,000 for cancer research, beating last year’s fundraising total of $2,800. The majority of the money is raised through 50-50 draws, door prizes and raffles. Harrington said that corporate sponsors and local businesses donate most of the prizes. He invites the public to come watch the game and to join the festivities at the Fernie Hotel after.
“We encourage people to come out,” he said. “Anyone who comes out to the games is welcome back to the hotel to have hot dogs and hamburgers with us and join in the fun.”
The challenge is set for Saturday, Sept. 19 at 3 p.m. at the Prentice Park ball diamonds.