7th inning stretch? Island brothers reviving baseball for those 55-plus

Kelly McGiffin, left, Dwayne Stern, batboy Jackson McGiffin and Kirk McGiffin are reviving the Port Alberni Cubs—this time as an over-55 baseball team. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)Kelly McGiffin, left, Dwayne Stern, batboy Jackson McGiffin and Kirk McGiffin are reviving the Port Alberni Cubs—this time as an over-55 baseball team. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Kelly McGiffin, left, Dwayne Stern, batboy Jackson McGiffin and Kirk McGiffin are reviving the Port Alberni Cubs—this time as an over-55 baseball team. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)Kelly McGiffin, left, Dwayne Stern, batboy Jackson McGiffin and Kirk McGiffin are reviving the Port Alberni Cubs—this time as an over-55 baseball team. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Kirk McGiffin takes a swing at a pitch in the batting cage that his brother Kelly has in his backyard. The McGiffin brothers are part of a revival of men’s baseball in Port Alberni. The team has started practicing at Klitsa Lon Miles Park Fields. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)Kirk McGiffin takes a swing at a pitch in the batting cage that his brother Kelly has in his backyard. The McGiffin brothers are part of a revival of men’s baseball in Port Alberni. The team has started practicing at Klitsa Lon Miles Park Fields. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Kelly McGiffin feeds practice balls into a pitching machine for his brother Kirk to hit at Kelly’s Port Alberni home. Kelly McGiffin has both an indoor and outdoor batting cage that prospective Cubs’ members have been using. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)Kelly McGiffin feeds practice balls into a pitching machine for his brother Kirk to hit at Kelly’s Port Alberni home. Kelly McGiffin has both an indoor and outdoor batting cage that prospective Cubs’ members have been using. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

A group of former Port Alberni baseball stars are hitting the ball diamonds again this year.

Brothers Kelly and Kirk McGiffin and teammate Dwayne Stern are pulling together an over-55 men’s baseball team in the hopes of playing interlocking games with a squad from the Comox Valley. They’ve named the team the Port Alberni Cubs, reviving a decades-old baseball tradition.

“The Port Alberni Cubs are so named in homage of the Port Cubs from the late 1950s, where several of our fathers played,” said Kelly McGiffin, who is now 65. The McGiffins were on a championship team in 1976, and many players from that team went on to have successful careers at the provincial and national levels. Kelly McGiffin left Port Alberni 40 years ago, spending time in Courtenay and then Ontario, growing his banking career.

When he returned to the Island he got picked up to play for a team in Courtenay, and they suggested starting a 55-plus team in Alberni. They’ve had a lot of interest from past members of their championship team—players like Doug Chase, who is in the World Softball Hall of Fame, as well as Tony Powell, the Shick brothers, Richard Chernomaz and others.

READ MORE: Port Alberni’s Doug Chase receives Hall of Fame award

Oldtimers’ baseball still uses 90-foot bases, which may seem like a long way to throw the ball—but the runners are a lot slower too.

“You’re never going to play like you’re a 20-year-old guy anymore,” Kelly McGiffin said, but the team offers a physical team sport “where you can re-engage with your youth a little bit. And it’s such a great sport.”

Kirk McGiffin said he hadn’t played in a few years when he got back into it. What he likes about oldtimers’ baseball is that the rules are tailored to older players: for instance, when you make a base hit you cannot be thrown out at first base, you have unlimited subs and teams only use wooden bats—no aluminum.

The Cubs began practicing at Klitsa Lon Miles Park Fields in late April. They plan on one practice and one game per week so as not to interrupt minor league baseball and fastball schedules.

Kelly McGiffin said they have more than a dozen players confirmed and hope for more so they can field more than one team. Comox Valley teams already have 30 or so players interested in playing against the Cubs when COVID-19 restrictions allow.

“It would be nice to see if Nanaimo could get something together,” Kirk McGiffin added.

Kelly McGiffin played for 10 years in a 35-and-over division in Hamilton, Ont. When the league started a 55-and-over division it only took two years to expand to six teams, he said.

The team is still looking for more players. E-mail Kelly McGiffin at kellymc30@shaw.ca.

The team also has a Facebook page, Port Alberni Cubs, where members have been posting memories and information on the team.

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