SHARE
Home base . . . The North Otago Softball Association is planning an event to say goodbye to the Oamaru diamond in November. Organising the event are (from left) Sandra Kitto, Julia McLennan, and her son, Nick. Absent are Richard Kitto and Sharon Sherwin. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

The North Otago Softball Association is aiming for a home run to farewell its diamond.

The association will soon lose the Centennial Park softball diamond to make way for the new Waitaki Event Centre.

While the sport has not been played in Oamaru for the past four years, the diamond was once a hive of activity, with many senior teams and 32 tee-ball teams playing during the summer.

When Julia McLennan and other former Oamaru softball stalwarts learned the diamond would be lost when the event centre development got under way, they wanted to give the sport the send-off it deserved.

A two-day event is being proposed for November 11 and 12, with a get-together on the Friday followed by both men’s and women’s softball games on the Saturday. A barbecue and events at the game are also planned, and a formal function will be held at the Loan and Merc.

‘‘Basically we decided we needed to do something to celebrate softball, because of the fact we’re going to lose our identity shortly,’’ Mrs McLennan said.

The association cleaned out its storage recently and had uniforms ‘‘coming out our ears’’.

The tops would be on display, alongside trophies and memorabilia, at the event.

K-South would get the diamond ‘‘up to scratch’’ and organisers had called for expressions of interest on Facebook, hoping to attract former players to the event, she said.

About 190 people had indicated they were interested and organisers planned to get together for a meeting next week to co-ordinate formal registrations.

Past players seemed excited to get back together and were pleased there would be a farewell, she said.

‘‘People are really rapt that we’re actually going to do something.’’

Mrs McLennan, whose son, Nick, came up with the idea for the farewell event, came from a large softball family — ‘‘we could put a family team in quite easily’’ — and said it was sad softball had died out in Oamaru.

But she was looking forward to getting everyone together.

‘‘We just want to celebrate it before we actually see it disappear completely.’’

Softball once thrived in Oamaru. When Mrs McLennan started playing there were A, B and C grades for seniors and, before it stopped four years ago, there were teams from Waitaki Boys’ and Waitaki Girls’ High School, two senior men’s teams and a senior women’s team competing.

‘‘All us oldies played for a long, long time, just so Waitaki Girls’ could have some competition.’’

The association tried to advertise for more interest and held summer leagues over the years, but it ‘‘didn’t pan out’’.

Instead, it gave money to Youthtown to buy softball gear and play the sport with primary schoolchildren, she said.

‘‘I think they’re still playing tee-ball and that in the junior schools, but it’s really sad there isn’t any stuff for the highschoolers.’’

A core group of ‘‘softball families’’ had given more than 20 years to the sport, but no longer had the time, she said.

‘‘It’s kind of gone through a cycle. We’ve run out of softball families.’’

If there was interest in starting softball up again, the Waitaki District Council had offered to move the diamond to another ground, Mrs McLennan said.

‘‘Hopefully, you never know, it might just take one of our children or somebody that might be interested going forward.’’

Council recreation manager Erik van der Spek confirmed the council would work with the association to establish a new location for the diamond if required.