By: Andrew Hendriks
Canadian Baseball Network
Trying to fire a spongy ball past any one of his five brothers, John Hemstadt's love of the game began on a field adjacent to his parents barn in Domremy, Saskatchewan.
Three strikes and it's time to switch, both siblings trying to out-slug each other in a contest that could last hours. Aimed at gaining exclusive bragging rights, the competition was fierce to say the least.
It was nothing more than common sibling rivalry that helped lay the roots for a passion that would engulf Hemstadt's life from that point on.
What started on a barnyard, would end in a Hall of Fame.
Not once, but twice.
When he was too young to play, Hemstadt would watch closely as his older siblings suited up on local sandlot clubs around his home town. Once old enough to slug equipment from the batters box to the dugout, he and his younger brother Norman served as his brothers bat boys and during the summer months.
During that time, the two could be found studying their sibling's movements on the field, picking up balls, bats and a plethora of first hand knowledge at the same time.
In the years that followed, both John and Norman joined a juvenile squads in Birch Hills, Sask. Before long, it became apparent that those countless hours spent trying to strike each other out would pay off on the diamond as the pair had developed a keen eye at the dish and quickly excelled to the top of their respective teams batting orders.
Although Norman left for Manitoba, his elder brother remained in Saskatchewan, anchored to the local baseball environment in which he cut his teeth under as a child.
Distance aside, the Hemstadt duo would continue to impress, playing for numerous organizations across both Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Forged on the back lots of nearby Domremy, the tandem's passion for the game would keep them closely involved for the majority of the next 50 years.
After a lengthy career in Keystone Province, the younger Hemstadt was inducted in to the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005. Two years later, his counterpart would receive similar accolades as a member of the Asquith Braves club that was enshrined in the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of fame in 2007.
Playing, managing and going as far as to help organize the layout of numerous ball yards in nearby Rosetown, Sask. the elder Hemstadt gave much of his free time to the game and those around him, teammates included, appreciated his efforts immensely.
In 1978, Hemstadt joined the Prince Albert Merchants where he would play for the next 29 years in a 35 and older circuit. Over that span, the one-time bat boy never missed a game, tournament or practice.
Trading in his spikes and glove for a broom and stone, he now curls during his time spent away from the grassy diamonds of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
For his lifetime of dedication to the game at both the competitive and grass-roots level, John Hemstadt will be inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame for a second time on August 15th.
"To have that all recognized is a bit humbling" said the newest member of Saskatchewan's ball hall in a recent interview with the Prince Albert Daily Herald. " I played against a lot of baseball players over the years. I'm very pleased and very honored, to be truthful."