Ed Matthews has been anticipating this for 18 months and, in very short order, his plan will come to fruition.

He helped lead the bid that saw Stouffville earn the right to host the 2018 under-14 Boys Canadian Fast Pitch Championship in August.

“Back in July of 2016, I had realized the quality of the (Stouffville Storm) team, I coach, had progressed well over the years, so I approached (the organization) about putting in a bid to Softball Canada,” Matthews said. “After the 2016 season was complete, we put together an application package. We heard back in January that we were given the opportunity to host the championship this year.”

The tournament, which will be played at Bethesda Park, is an eight-team event which sees every squad play one another in the round-robin phase before the playoffs begin. With teams from Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland competing, it will provide the Stouffville squad with a shot at inter-provincial competition.

“For my players, realistically, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Matthews said. “I’ve had the chance to witness many Canadian and Eastern Canadian championships and, just from my experience as a spectator, it was phenomenal getting to see the camaraderie between the players and their interactions, making new friends across the provinces. I’ve met people through (these championships) that I keep in touch with on a weekly or bi-weekly basis myself. It’s a unique experience to play against teams you may never see again in your life and make a lot of new friendships for these kids.”

On the preparation side, Matthews and Stouffville Softball received a host guide to point him in the right direction to help set up an event of this magnitude.

“It dealt with hosting teams and the fans and making some changes to our diamonds to match up with what Softball Canada was looking for, as well as securing food and souvenir vendors,” Matthews said. “It was a pretty extensive workload to take on, but I feel that our group has done a pretty good job getting everything together.”

He’s had an opportunity to see the adjustments come together at Bethesda on an almost-daily basis and it’s gone well.

“I also work for the town (of Stouffville), in the parks department, so that’s allowed me to be at the park almost every day and make sure the field is looking great,” Matthews said.

The championship, which runs from August 8-12, will showcase Stouffville to the softball community.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity,” Matthews said. “Our parks department is really excited to show off our facilities. From a managerial side, I know they’re excited about it. The sponsors are excited, our local softball association is excited and I think it’s going to put Stouffville on the map.”

“We’ve had a lot of success at the youth and men’s levels over the years,” he added. “I believe something in the neigbourhood of 20 Ontario championships and other medals, but being able to host an event of this magnitude will be something special for Stouffville Softball and we’ll be able to put our names in to host other events of this magnitude in the near future.”

During the competition, his volunteers will take on a bigger role, allowing Matthews to concentrate more on coaching. Given the sizable dual role, Matthews isn’t sure when he’ll have a chance to take a step back and enjoy a championship, almost two years in the making.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to appreciate how special everything was until it’s all said and done,” he said. “I’ll be very swept up with everything, making sure everyone’s having a great time and all, and I also have a great group of volunteers that will be stepping up during the week that will allow me to focus on coaching my Stouffville team. But I don’t think I’ll be able to feel the relief of everything that’s gone on until that final pitch is thrown and, hopefully, we walk away with the gold medal.”

Image: The Stouffville Storm are the proud hosts of the 2018 under-14 Boys Canadian Fast Pitch Championship. Kira Hassard photo