Return of the Sandpipers
Rick Leroux can’t wait to reunite with his Kamloops Sandpipers teammates — it’s been a long time coming.
The now-defunct senior men’s baseball team is having a 30-year reunion this week, starting Thursday, July 12, in concert with the 40th Kamloops International Baseball Tournament (KIBT).
“It’s going to be neat to see some of those guys and talk about some of the things that went on during tournaments and road trips,” said Leroux, one of the team’s founding members.
“There will be some laughs for sure.”
Leroux split from the Kamloops Brewers and formed the Kamloops Stockman’s All Stars in 1977.
The team began using the Sandpiper moniker in 1984 and went on to win four consecutive provincial titles — from 1984 to 1987 — and one senior AA men’s Western Canadian Baseball Association (WCBA) championship, beating the North Shore Blue Jays on home soil in 1988.
Kamloops was not allowed to compete in the 1988 provincial tournament because it was hosting Westerns.
The Blue Jays won the B.C. title in the Sandpipers’ absence.
“I think the desire of our team to be winners was pretty neat,” said Leroux, who mostly pitched, played shortstop and caught for the Sandpipers, although he could slide in anywhere on the field.
“It was pretty well a full-on commitment from all the guys that played. The guys we picked up wanted to play for us.
“They saw what kind of an organization we were — and that was a winning organziation.”
Leroux — who pegged Ken Davidowski as one of the all-time best Sandpipers — played with Kamloops until he left the city in 1991. He now lives in Vernon.
The Sandpiper name was last used in 1993.
Kamloops beat the Enderby Legionnaires — one of its traditional rivals — handily in a reunion game a few years after the team disbanded, marking the last time many of the players met face to face.
The reunion kicks of Thursday night when the squad gathers at Norbrock Stadium to watch KIBT action.
Team members will play a round at Mt. Paul Golf Course on Friday, July 13, before heading to Frick and Frack for food and drinks.
There are also rumours of “a hot tub party in Fitzer’s room” on Friday night, according to a reunion weekend press release.
Fans are invited to watch the Sandpipers play an intrasquad game at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 14.
The game will be played on the Bantam No. 1 Field on McArthur Island.
Leroux said it will be just like old times.
“When we lost 2-1 in the Kamloops International to the Washington State Cougars, one of their questions was, ‘Where did you guys play your college ball?’” said Leroux, noting John Olerud played for the Cougars that day.
“Ninety-five per cent of us said, ‘We didn’t play college ball.’
“We’re just a bunch of guys who want to play baseball.’”