Softball pitching great settling into valley life
Some of the island region’s world-class athletes who weren’t brought up in the valley just seem to naturally gravitate here.
A case in point is Korrey Gareau, one of the greatest softball pitchers of all time, who has called Cobble Hill home since 2005.
Gareau was in the world spotlight during his prime for many years. He grew up under the microscope of high expectations but it never fazed him and he always delivered under pressure situations.
“I was always the dependent one,’’ said Gareau, who turns 41 on Dec. 11 and still looks like he could throw a pretty mean pitch. “The game was on the line, I always had the ball.
“There’s very few times I was on a team where I wasn’t the starter.’’
Gareau only recently settled down from his globe-trotting playing days to spend more time with wife Brigitte and sons Colton, 11, and Brody, 5.
“I enjoyed it a lot, but I sacrificed a lot of things,’’ Gareau conceded.
Born in The Pas, Manitoba, Gareau came to Campbell River at an early age and grew up there, starting in ball at the age of five.
“My dad played ball, all his buddies,’’ said Gareau. “I just hung out at the ball park. My dad coached me all the way through.’’
Since Campbell River offered a softball program, Gareau never had to make the transition from baseball. He played softball from the beginning and found instant success as a pitcher.
“It was totally natural,’’ Gareau said. “I didn’t have to work too much at it. I was one of those guys, I was lucky.’’
After graduating from high school in 1990, Gareau went to New Zealand and played for a top-level club team in Wellington.
“It was basically a year and a half of straight ball. They’re always playing ball.’’
When Gareau returned to Canada, he hooked up with the Victoria Money Mart team.
“One of my buddies’ dads was kind of the manager of the team,’’ he said. “I just played my junior years with them.’’
Gareau’s phenomenal play and legendary status was just beginning to take shape at that time.
In a junior game, Gareau once struck out the first 20 batters he faced and was working on a no-hitter when a batter beat out a bunt with two out in the seventh inning. He promptly struck out the next hitter.
“That one hit stands out the most,’’ Gareau said. “I had 21 strikeouts and a one-hitter.’’
His fielders had absolutely nothing to do the entire game.
Money Mart won the junior nationals in 1994.
“We all graduated and I went across the road,’’ said Gareau.
He hit the senior ranks in 1995 as a member of Victoria Pay Less where everybody from the Pacific Northwest and beyond who hadn’t heard about him discovered his amazing talents very quickly.
“I was a starter right away,’’ said Gareau. “It was perfect timing to get into it.’’
The ‘95 International Softball Congress Worlds were in Sioux City, Iowa where Pay Less finished in the top 10.
“It was definitely an eye-opener,’’ said Gareau. “That was the cream of the crop at the time.
“Being with Pay Less at the time, you’re young and you learn to grow up pretty fast.’’
There were too many memorable ISC Worlds to mention after that for Gareau. One that stands out is the 1997 tournament in Victoria where “we put on a show,’’ he said.
Then known as Legends, Victoria hosted and won the nationals and lost the ISC final at home to The Farm, a legendary franchise from Wisconsin that Gareau eventually played for in later years.
He retired in 2008, but not before winning the Worlds with The Farm the year before. Gareau was with the national team from 1999 to 2008.
He’s up for nomination into the ISC Hall of Fame in Kimberly, Wisconsin in 2015. Gareau might yet lace up the boots again for the national team and oldtimers’ ball with Joe DiLalla’s group in Duncan.
But the primary focus will be coaching some baseball for his sons’ teams in Duncan.
“It’s a learning curve for me,’’ Gareau said. “It’s a different game.
“It’s one thing to play the game. It’s another to teach the game.’’