Russ Smoler’s Softball Story
For Russ Smoler, son of Bill and Cecilia Smoler, softball was a family affair. He grew up throwing a ball against a wall while his mother played fastpitch at the ballpark. As soon as he was old enough, he started playing Little League, and then graduated to fastpitch as a teenager in 1976.
In the 1980s, fastpitch was one of the most popular sports in the Yukon and Smoler was on many of the successful teams. Games were twice a week and practices were usually on the weekend or in the early morning hours at 7 or 7:30am.
“Most of us had a love for the game or you wouldn’t do it,” says Smoler. “We knew that when we were competing we were playing Canada’s best, and we wanted to keep our level of play high.” Over the years, Smoler was a member of five of Yukon’s all star teams, The Pepsi Challengers, who went on to compete in the National Championships. “We typically didn’t win, but we felt like we were competitive,” he says. “In most games were competitive defensively and tried to keep the scores down.”
In the late 1980s he became the president of Softball Yukon. By that time slowpitch was gaining popularity, and many men played both fastpitch and slowpitch. Over the years, Smoler also went on to be involved in the sport as a coach. “It was a great community project over the years,” he says.