Baseball Junior Leagues

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Father, son will see Canadian Little League baseball majors championship from different angles

By Martin Cleary

Father-son combinations are familiar in Little League baseball. The former serves as a coach teaching the basics of the game and the latter as a player, learning how to hit, field and pitch the ball.

But there will be a unique father-son presentation at the Canadian Little League baseball majors (ages 11-12) championship Aug. 1-10 in Regina as father Keith Hamel and son Luc Hamel will be on opposite sides of the diamond at Kinsmen Park.

A number of years ago, Keith coached Luc on the Dunbar Little League team in Vancouver. They later coached together.

But beginning next week, they will be holding contrasting roles for two different provinces as they chase the same goal – a national championship and the opportunity to represent Canada at the Little League World Series Aug. 16-27 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Luc is an assistant coach with the Ottawa West Twins and will represent Ontario at the Canadian championships. The Twins lost their opening game of the double-elimination Ontario majors championship, but never doubted their abilities and rallied to win six straight games to capture the provincial title on Wednesday at the Pinecrest Park diamond.

A few days earlier, Keith watched defending Little League Canada champion Little Mountain repeat as the British Columbia majors champion. Keith is the district administrator for District 1 Vancouver West Side and is not affiliated with any specific team.

While Luc will be on the field coaching and encouraging the Twins, Keith will be in the stands supporting the Little Mountain team.

But what happens when Ottawa West and Little Mountain meet in the seven-province, round-robin on Wednesday afternoon?

“As B.C. District 1 district administrator, I’ve followed them (Little Mountain) faithfully. They’re a very strong team and went to the Little League World Series in 2022,” Keith said in his opening argument.

“Now, my son’s team is in the Canadian championship as well. I will cheer for both teams. I’m not sure what will happen when they play each other. I’ll probably not wear my D.A. hat and cheer for a good game.”

It was easier at the 2019 Canadian championships, when Keith could outright support his son and the Ottawa West team. Eventual champion Coquitlam qualified to represent B.C. and is not from Keith’s district.

“We’ve never been on opposite sides before. But for just that game, I will be neutral,” Keith added.

Over the next few days, Luc may try to twist his dad’s arm a tad to convince him to support the West Ottawa team.

“I hope he cheers for us,” Luc said in a phone interview on Friday.

Luc and Keith followed each other’s Little League journeys over the past few weeks through text messaging. As each day passed, the possibility of seeing each other in Regina and being on opposite sides of the baseball fencing become more and more likely.

Little Mountain dominated its provincial round-robin tournament, winning all six games and outscoring its opponents 62-6. But in the playoffs, Little Mountain needed to score a pair of tight wins for the title.

Ottawa West, on the other hand, had a difficult roller coaster ride in its double-elimination tournament to emerge as the Ontario majors champion. Playing seven games in seven days, the Twins lost their opener in extra innings by taking Glebe a little too lightly, but won their next six games, including an unbelievable two-game sweep over undefeated Glebe in the final.

The Twins qualified for the Ontario final against Glebe by following its first-game defeat with four straight victories. But they needed to defeat Glebe on back-to-back days to win the provincial title.

It certainly didn’t look good for the Twins in the first final game on Tuesday, when Glebe led 9-3 with two out in the bottom of the sixth inning, which was the final inning.

But the Twins never doubted their abilities and staged a massive comeback for a 10-9 triumph, earning them a chance to play again Wednesday.

One out away from elimination, the Twins punched out a double, single and another single to get the rally going. The momentum started to grow in the dugout and with the Ottawa West parents and fans. Runs were scored and left fielder Gavin Rossiter tied the game with a two-run single.

The game-winning run was scored without a hit, but rather a heads-up play. When outfielder Ryan Nolan noticed the Glebe catcher lobbed the ball back to his pitcher, he sprinted from third base and stole home to give the Twins the decisive run.

That comeback momentum carried into the sudden-death final on Wednesday. Glebe scored one run in the top of the first inning, but Ottawa West sent 15 players to the plate in their half of the inning and scored 10 runs. The game was called after four innings because of the mercy rule with the Twins leading 12-1.

At the start of the season, Luc Hamel was uncertain about his team and “I didn’t expect to get to this point.”

“But the team was positive and willing to improve,” he said. “We had very good defence and could throw strikes. We got a lot of momentum at the end of June and early July and maintained it.”

The Twins won the Ottawa District 2 championship, edging the favoured East Nepean Eagles 5-4 in the final game with timely hitting and alert plays.

During the Ontario championship, the Twins pitching staff didn’t waste their pitches and was extremely effective. The Twins have a 12-player roster and eight could be called to the pitcher’s mound, which is critical as pitchers have a tight pitch count during a week.

While Brady Grubb (first baseman/pitcher), Vincent Leger (centre fielder/first baseman/pitcher), Owen Cameron (shortstop) and Jonny Cuhaci (third baseman) are key players for Ottawa West, every player contributed down the stretch.

“We put kids in big moments, asked them to do the job and they did it,” Hamel said.

In their first final comeback, Hamel added the players believed in themselves and “it got to the point it was destined to happen.”

When it was over and the celebrations were in full flight, Hamel was truly excited for the players.

“It was a feeling of excitement for them. I know what it was like to be 12 years old and qualify for nationals and fly across the country. This is something they’ve earned,” he added.

“For the coaches and parents, it was a sense of how improbable it was (to win) after being down. It makes winning even more special. They are a constant positive energy and pick each other up. I was thrilled for them more than on a personal level.”

As for the Canadian championship, Hamel sees British Columbia and Quebec as the top two teams. Little Mountain is the defending champion, which gave British Columbia its 17th title in the past 19 years. The other two winners were the East Nepean Eagles in 2013 and 2004.

The Twins have played the Quebec representative four times this season and produced one win.

“Our goal at Canadians is we’re going there to try to win,” Hamel said. “B.C. we know is strong. We’ve played Quebec four times. They are beatable. We feel we’re playing with house money.

“We’ve pulled off miracles to be here. If that can happen, why not win the whole thing?”

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at

Martin can be reached by e-mail at and on Twitter @martincleary.

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