As renovation work continues at Softball City

Getting ready to welcome the world

Greg Timm, and legions of volunteers, prepare for 2016 Women's World Softball Championships

First thing’s first – Greg Timm is not excited to be here, sitting on a picnic table at Softball City, talking about himself.

It’s not that the 52-year-old Semiahmoo Peninsula resident – and longtime chair of the Canadian Open Fastpitch Society – doesn’t enjoy a few minutes in the sun, talking softball, and more importantly, talking about the upcoming Women’s World Softball Championships, which Surrey is set to host in July.

It’s just that the affable Timm would much rather talk about everyone else – from volunteer ticket-takers and committee members to city staff – all of whom, he says, have helped to make the world championships a reality.

Over the course of a half hour, he mentions more than a few of them – like the 86-year-old volunteer who has been in charge of transportation for more than 20 years’ worth of Canada Cups and Canadian Opens; or Canada Cup founder Glenn Todd, or the legion of volunteers “with no skin in the game” who volunteer their time not because they have children involved in the sport, but simply because they enjoy it.

He gets excited, too, when the conversation drifts to the players themselves – players like Australia’s much-heralded pitcher Melanie Roche, who was a star at the inaugural Canada Cup in 1993 and is rumoured to be making a comeback at age 45 for this summer’s world championships; and Canada’s Sara Groenewegen, a former White Rock Renegade pitcher who is becoming a star in her own right.

“Sara is just tearing it up at the University of Minnesota right now. We’ll have a local hometown hero here to watch, and that adds a really exciting aspect to this tournament,” Timm says.

The tournament itself – set for July 15-24 – is three months away and exactly 100 days out as Timm sits chatting with a reporter with work swirling around them.

There is much to do between now and mid-July. Softball City itself is in the midst of a flurry of renovations – the four playing fields have all been redone, and irrigation in the park is also being improved, among other on-field work.

The washrooms have also been renovated, and by the time the summer hits, a myriad other esthetic improvements will have been completed, including removal of some old out-buildings, the pulling out of unruly landscaping and the putting down of fresh sod. At the main diamond, concrete has been poured for new dugouts, as well as the scorekeeper’s booth behind home plate.

According to Owen Croy, Surrey’s manager of parks, more than $1.5 million will have been spent to improve the facility, dating back to 2014.

“This is a fantastic facility – one of the crown jewels of Western Canada when it comes to softball – but it was in need of a bit of refurbishment,” Timm says.

Away from the park, Timm and the organizers are as busy as ever. He admits it’s nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

“It’s really starting to take shape now. We’re starting to get scheduling done, but it’s still a nervous time because there’s so much to do,” he says. “We have 100 days to go, and we still have to go to Mars and back about 20 times.”

Most of the work is done on evenings and weekends, too, considering most volunteers work during the day.

For Timm, who is president of Pacific Customs Brokers, it also includes early-morning work, on account of most participating teams being in different time zones. Timm often wakes up to a slew of emails, and begins answering as early as 4:30 a.m.

He says he “is of both minds” when asked if time has flown by since his group was awarded the 2016 bid during an International Softball Federation convention in Cartagena, Colombia nearly three years ago.

“It does seem like a long time ago… but on the other hand, 2½ years can expire pretty quickly. It’s just been an unbelievable effort from our volunteers to get to this point,” he says.

“Before we’d started anything, we knew this was going to be a massive effort. I feel pretty lucky here to have had so many great people get involved.”

On the Peninsula and beyond, Timm is no stranger to softball. He is president of the White Rock Renegades, and was co-chair, along with Todd, of the original Canada Cup. Since 2010, Timm has been chairman of the Canadian Open, the Canada Cup’s replacement.

Timm got his start in softball just after high school, he explained, when he got the opportunity to coach with Team BC and, for a time, with the national program.

But it was meeting Todd – the Renegades’ founder – that really spurred Timm in his decades-long commitment to the sport.

“Glen, he’s a big thinker. He taught me a lot – about thinking outside the box, about thinking big,” says Timm.

“Honestly, we reflect back to the Canada Cup days, and everything that Glen did to anchor softball in this community, and it’s a big deal for us. He is really the father of softball here – we’ve just taken it in a new direction.”

Timm is especially proud that this year’s event will include a Renegades’ alumni night – set for July 22 – that will coincide with Todd being inducted into the World Baseball/Softball Confederation Hall of Fame.

“It’ll happen right here on our field, with all his Renegades behind him,’ says Timm. “We’re all just so proud, because Glen deserves every bit of credit he can ever get.”

A 31-team roster is a record for women’s world championships, but what makes Timm – a staunch supporter of girls’ youth sports – proudest is where many of the teams are coming from.

“We’re having teams here from countries where young women have to battle to go to school, or to even play a sport. When we get those kind of countries here, that’s the part that’s very rewarding.”

With so much on his plate – and more to come once the event begins – Timm said he’s made a mental note to try and enjoy at least a few moments once the first pitch is thrown.

“When we get all the teams on the field for our opening ceremonies, I think it will be an emotional time for all of us, and we want to enjoy it,” he said.

“And on the 25th of July, once we get everybody on the bus and headed back to the airport… we’ll crack open a Bud and enjoy and reflect on what we’ve done.”

 

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