Day V: Demchenko, Perkins have them dancing in the streets

Prairies Purple champions pose with commisioner Robbie Alomar and the alumni who took part in the five-day Tournament 12. Photo: Tyler King.

Prairies Purple champions pose with commisioner Robbie Alomar and the alumni who took part in the five-day Tournament 12. Photo: Tyler King.

By Bob Elliott

If the Rolling Stones did a re-make of Dancing in the Streets it would go something like this:

“It’s an invitation across the nation,
A chance for folks to meet.
There’ll be laughing, singing, and music swinging,
Dancing in the street.
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Lloydminster and Muenster
Can’t forget Bienfait, Sask., Stonewall or Morden, Man.”

Zach Demchenko pitched a complete-game three hitter and Brett Resch knocked in a only run in the third inning as Prairies Purple edged Quebec Blue 1-0 in the final of the third annual Tournament 12 Friday at the Rogers Centre.

Both players are from Saskatoon, while Carson Perkins of Bienfait won MVP honors for his two wins. 

Shortstop Dylan Flasch of Lloydminster made a key play for the second out of the seventh with Brett Humeniuk of Stonewall and Flasch getting the other hits for the Prairies.  

Jared Spearing of Winnipeg and Brody Frerichs of Muenster had the other wins for the Prairies. 

Demchenko walked seven in three innings on Wednesday in his first start, a 4-1 loss to Futures Navy.

“First time I was a little cocky, tried to strike out too many,” said Demchenko, who lives a five-minute bike ride from the man he was 60 feet, six inches from in the championship game. He said he didn’t shake off catcher Jordan Malainey once.

“Those two have been playing together since they were nine with the Saskatoon Braves,” said Denny Demchenko, the winning pitcher’s father. “I think Zach set a tournament record for walks in the first one. He was nervous when he woke up this morning.

“I paced a little bit, (coach) Jim Baba came out, settled him down late, went out and told him to ‘slow down and breath,’ and then it was three outs to go.

“Jim has been a calming influence.”

Baba, a member of the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame and former national team coach, ran the team along with Andy Boehm (Brandon, Man.), Jonathan Ali (Winnipeg, Man.) and designated import Denny Berni (Etobicoke, Ont.), who played for the Swift Current Indians.

Just then the winning pitcher shook the hand of the proud father and the two hugged only a hug a father and son can share. 

Demchecko operates four Boston Pizza franchises in Saskatoon. So besides dancing in the streets will there be free pizza too?

“I’ve been known to drop off a box or two,” said the father.       

The father has opened Going Yard Training Centre an 8,000 square feet facility in Saskatoon. The facility is open to the public and Greg Brons runs the Saskatoon Baseball Academy. Local high schoolers attend class in the mornings and then spend the afternoons by going to Going Yard. 

Demchenko pitched at Rogers Centre last year (“nothing special”) but his father was not in Toronto. He and his wife Dawn, a nurse with Sask Health, “divide and conquer” when it comes to their four busy children.

Besdies Zach, Elanor, 15, plays ringette and fastball, Jackson, 10, plays baseball and hockey and Gabriella, nine, is into ringette and dance.

Now, Demchenko pitches for the Okotoks Dawgs and coaches Jeff Duda, Val Helldobler and Allan Cox. Malainey, leading hitter for the Prairies, catches for the Alberta rival, the Vauxhall Academy Jets for coaches Les McTavish, Jim Kotkas and Joel Blake. 

Across the diamond Alex Agostino had taken off his Quebec Blue uniform.

Soon, he’d put on his Philadelphia Phillies hat and head for the University of Buffalo Bulls scout day.

“I give credit to the Toronto Blue Jays for putting on a show like this,” said Agostino. “As a Montrealer I never thought I would say that. This is three years and neither B.C. nor Ontario has won. Some guys get out here and get nervous. This is the kids. No one is giving signals, bunting runners over. We let the kids play. 

“This is a dream for all these kids to play in this building, get a tour of the clubhouse, meet a Hall of Famer like Robbie Alomar who was here for every game, spoke to each time. If you’re a kid who loves the game and that doesn’t give you goose bumps, I don’t know what will.”

Now, remember this was a coach on the losing side talking, someone who cares about baseball in Canada. Atlantic Canada won in 2013, Quebec last year and now the Prairies.

“The Blue Jays with this program, their coast-to-coast camps and what they have done on the field this year have transformed baseball and energized the country from B.C. to Newfoundland,” said Agostino. “It’s like what David Price said ‘I don’t pitch for a city -- I pitch for a whole country.”

Agostino has praise for Jays alumni like Lloyd Moseby, Devon White, Duane Ward, George Bell, Mario Diaz and Sandy Alomar who split time between the two dugouts.

“I came and I learned, I loved Sandy’s line to the kids how they should ‘live to express, not impress, when you impress, you put pressure on yourself,” said Agostino.

When Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar was asked to lend his name to Tournament 12 he said yes.

“I said if I was going to be involved, we had to do things right for the kids,” said Alomar, the tourney commissioner. “I’m proud of what we’ve done so far.”

Usually teams from Ontario and British Columbia dominate at the nationals and yet at the T12 the first three winners have been Atlantic, Quebec and now the Prairies.

“It shows you what can happen when you give people a chance,” Alomar said. “I want to have a junior T12 next year for player 13-to-16.”

Jays Care and Alomar made it possible for each player to get to Toronto and have lodging paid for at a cost of $350. 

The Prairie win caps a successful year for Saskatchewan who won silver at the Canada Cup and the western Canada Summer Games losing to B.C. both times. Perkins beat Ontario in the semi-final. He pitched five innings allowing one run in an 8-1 win over Atlantic Maroon and then four innings allowing one run in the 5-2 semi-final win over Ontario Green.

“Walking to the bullpen I thought to myself, I wonder how many great pitchers have made this same walk,” said Perkins, who went 2-0 allowing two runs in nine innings while walking one and striking out five.

And part way through Thursday’s semi-final Perkins, who has committed to Canisius College and Mike McRae’s program, turned in the third base dugout to see someone who had made the same walk: Marcus Stoman, who had flown back from Atlanta.

“I stuttered an stammered when I met him, I was awestruck, he is a guy I always looked up too,” said the 6-foot-5 Perkins, “He said ‘this is so cool you guys get to play on major-league field.’ For him to come back from a torn ACL and made his start last weekend in New York shows what type of a person he is. He has lots of heart. He is an inspiration.”

And Friday night Stroman faced the Boston Red Sox ... after MVP Perkins threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Mark Buehrle. 

Only in Canada.

Briefly: Baba may have done well managing Prairie Purple to the tournament win, however, that was not the fastest one the genial skipper pulled on Friday. After attending the Red Sox-Jays game Friday night, Baba along with Adam Morissette and Kelsey McIntosh drove home to Ottawa ... But who would drive. They settled the matter the way most adults would with a game of rock, paper, scissors ... Odd man was the loser and had to drive. Except Baba and Morissette agreed to both go rock, while McIntosh went scissors and lost. Morissette took over the wheel at Kingston -- Canada's first capital -- as the skipper slept.