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Father’s Day Field of Dreams memories

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Gabe and brother Cam Bouchard, pictured here in 2004, are two members of a formidable Manitoba baseball and softball family.

PHOTO BY MIKE DEAL/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Gabe and brother Cam Bouchard, pictured here in 2004, are two members of a formidable Manitoba baseball and softball family. Photo Store Photo Store

Fathers playing catch with sons used to be a common sight on local fields or even in front of homes. Sadly, that is no longer the case.

Two happenings got me thinking about playing catch. This weekend, the cast members of  the movie Field of Dreams are returning to Dyersville, Iowa to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its release. Based on the novel, Shoeless Joe, by Canadian W.P. Kinsella, the movie tells the story of an Iowa farmer, Ray Kinsella, who builds a baseball field on his corn field.

The scene that resonated with many viewers came near the end, when Kinsella’s father John, whom he hadn’t seen for years, showed up. Ray said to his dad: "Wanna have a catch?" John replied: "I’d like that." Most summer Sundays, fathers and sons and grandfathers and even some mothers and daughters visit the Field of Dreams to re-enact the scene from the movie and play catch.

St. Vital resident Leo Leclair recently called about a photo he had been given of the St. Boniface Native Sons team that won the Greater Winnipeg senior baseball championship in 1935. Leo said that when he was a boy, he played catch with his father Zack, who caught for the team. Pitcher Augustine Bouchard was also in the photo. That got me wondering about the amount of catch four generations of the Bouchard family must have played over the years, along with the impact they have had on baseball as well as softball in our city.

Augustine, nicknamed Darkey in his playing days, was an outstanding baseball player going back to the 1920s when he pitched for Catholic (Columbus) Club. He later managed the Native Sons in the 1940s and his oldest son, Rollie, was a top hitter for several senior teams. Four sons — Rene, Cam, Leo and Gabe — played senior fastball for Kiewel Seals, whose first home was a field by the St. Boniface brewery that sponsored the team. Cam, a perennial all-star second baseman in the mid-1950s and ’60s and Leo, who coached the 1973 Western Major Fastball League champion Winnipeg Colonels, are honoured members of the Manitoba Softball Hall of Fame. Cam later coached the Native Sons team that won five Redboine Senior League championships between 1989-93. His son, Jeff, was an all-star catcher for the teams that were inducted into the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 and younger son Brian played infield during part of the run. Leo’s oldest son Greg, a top fast-pitch pitcher and instructor was inducted into the softball HOF in May, and his younger son Brad played at the senior A level.

"The greatest gift my Dad gave me was his time to play catch pretty much whenever I wanted, until I reached the age of 14 and he said I threw too hard," Greg said. "I spent as much time as I could playing catch with my sons and even sat on a bucket to catch both boys pitching baseball."

As for the fourth generation, Greg’s son, Colin, plays for the junior St. Boniface Legionaires and he coached both Colin and his older son Brandon in Bonivital baseball. Presently Jeff coaches his younger son, Riley, with the Bonivital AAA midget team. Riley’s older brother, Brady, is a camp clinician for Baseball Manitoba this summer. Jeff remembers playing catch with his Dad in the backyard starting when he was three or four. He said his father also spent plenty of time doing the same with his grandsons.

With Sunday being Father’s Day, that would be a great time to get out the gloves and have a catch — just like the Kinsellas and the Bouchards.

Memories of Sport appears every second week in the Canstar Community News weeklies. Kent Morgan can be contacted at 204-489-6641 or email: sportsmemories@canstarnews.com

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