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Shawna Cloet, Adam Walker and a small handful of people are making sure softball does not die in what was once a hotbed for the sport.

Beginning Feb.4, a group is coming together in Port Dover for what is going to be a squirt softball team based out of Simcoe.

Any kids, from around the county and beyond, born in 2004 or 2005 are invited to try out for the team that will play in the Haldimand-Erie Fastpitch League.

“It’s exciting,” Cloet said. “It’s something lots of us grew up playing and it’s something that would be great to have back. It’s something my son wanted to try. And we found out he wasn’t alone.”

Although the idea has been in the back of Cloet’s mind for a while, she shared her thoughts with Walker during spring hockey sessions last year. Walker is originally a softball guy, and previously coached the Jarvis Huskers senior women’s team.

“Once we got talking, we thought, why not try and get a squirt team going,” Cloet said. “So we put our heads together and started trying to get people involved.”

Walker and Cloet got fellow parent and former player Mike VanNetten to jump on board, as well, Peter Timpf and George Ryder as consultants.

“It’s been great to get Peter and George with us on this,” Cloet said. “They both have so much knowledge that they can pass down to the kids.”

Timpf is the president Port Dover Minor Softball and father of Canadian Women’s National Team captain Megan Timpf.

Ryder is a local pitching legend, known across the country for his hard-throwing prowess. After his playing days, he has passed down his knowledge being part of the Canada’s National Junior Men’s Team’s coaching staff.

With a coaching staff assembled, the group is hoping to start a revival of sorts.

Years ago, if you went to Simcoe, Waterford, Port Dover, or Windham Centre, fastpitch softball ruled every diamond, many times with games at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

It’s a time Cloet, who grew up playing the sport in Waterford remembers well.

Every night the ball diamond was full with games at all levels, from t-ball all the way up to the men’s teams,” Cloet said. “There was never enough room for practices, so teams used schools and even the football field.”

But like many things, things go in cycles. With the popularity of baseball, rugby and soccer on the rise in Norfolk, softball began to be the odd one out. Minor softball numbers began to drop to extinction, with Port Dover having the only outlet in the area for the sport.

With the merger of the Jarvis Travellers to Kitchener a couple of years ago, and its eventual folding, a handful of teams in Haldimand making up the once very large Erie Men’s Fastball League, and the closing up of the Vittoria Oldtimers Fastball League, the once vibrant ball diamonds have become ghost fields, hosting maybe one user group.

“I know this one team, but it would be great if softball got popular again,” Cloet said. “It really is a great sport and much different than baseball.”

The group is getting together on Thursday Feb. 4, at 7 p.m. at Lakewood Elementary School in Port Dover. For more information, call Cloet at 519-429-9412 or email or Walker at 226-567-4274 or email

by Darryl Smart

Darryl Smart is a sports reporter with the Norfolk News. He can be reached at Follow Darryl on Twitter, and the Norfolk News on Facebook
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With the area’s best fastball team officially ceasing operations this past summer, another generation of stars is looking to take their place.

This past August the Kitchener Hallman Twins, once the three-time world champion Jarvis Travelers, announced they would no longer field a team.

In Simcoe, Adam Walker, Shawna Cloet and a group of coaches are looking to build the next crop of elite talent.

“I’ve always loved fastball and a lot of us have always loved fastball, there has just never been a place (for kids in Simcoe) to really play,” Walker said.

The duo, along with longtime player Mike Van Netten, will form the coaching staff of the Simcoe Braves. The team will enter the ‘squirt’ division – players age 11 and 12 – of the Haldimand-Erie Fastpitch League this summer. A three-year plan is in place, one with the ultimate goal of competing at the national championships.

“A lot of us have played in nationals before, it would be a lot of fun for these kids to experience,” Walker said.

“We’ve got a lot of really good athletes, some that have played baseball in the past, but none of these kids have ever played softball. Obviously, there’s going to be a pretty steep learning curve – although the games look similar they’re a world apart.”

Port Dover Minor Softball president Peter Timpf – the father of Team Canada member/2008 Olympian Megan – has offered the group gym time to train at Lakewood Elementary School, while longtime player and coach George Ryder will volunteer as a pitching instructor.

Walker is also drawing on contacts made while coaching the Jarvis Huskers senior women’s squad to be part of the building process.

“Anybody in the softball community we’ve talked to has been more than willing to help out,” he said.

The group has already reserved spots at tournaments in both Napanee and Innerkip for this season. As anyone that’s played both baseball and softball can attest, the jump from one side to the other isn’t easy. Walker said his squad would be focusing on a number of different skills during the off-season, one in particular.

“I think the key is pitching,” he said, noting there are no pitch counts in youth softball like there is in the hardball stream.

“Fastball is a natural motion so it doesn’t wear your arm like baseball does. We only really need two or three pitchers that can pitch. I think that’s going to be our biggest focus right now.”

Anyone wishing to get involved with the Braves can contact Walker at 226-567-4274 or e-mail:

Jacob Robinson

519-426-3528 ext. 529112