Softball Canada has announced its most recent hall of fame class – and there’s a very distinct Surrey flavour among the new inductees.
In a news release issued Thursday afternoon, Softball Canada announced that Greg Timm, the longtime organizer of the Canada Cup; Melanie Matthews, a former power-hitting Team Canada outfielder and alumnus of both the Surrey Storm and White Rock Renegades programs; and longtime umpire Christman Lee would be inducted into the national organization’s hall of fame.
Two other Lower Mainland residents round out the 2019 induction class – former Simon Fraser University and national women’s team coach Mike Renney, and Coquitlam Brian Van Os.
Timm is currently the chair of the committee that not only runs the annual Canada Cup tournament at Softball City, but also next month’s 2019 Americas Olympic Softball Qualifier. He has been involved in the Canada Cup since its inception in 1992, serving as vice-chair until 2008, when he took over top duties from Glen Todd, who is also a member of Softball Canada’s Hall of Fame.
Timm – the longtime president of the Renegades fastpitch association – was also the driving force behind the push to bring the 2016 Women’s World Softball Championships to Surrey. He also served as chair of that event.
Timm told Peace Arch News Friday that much of the credit for what he has accomplished as a ‘builder – which is the category he’s inducted into in the hall – goes to the legion of volunteers and other committee members who have been involved in the Canada Cup and other events.
“It’s an honour that the community deserves, for doing what they’ve done for so long,” he said.
“Take (the final day of the Canada Cup), for example. We had a full park, Team Canada wins, and our local kid, Sara (Groenewegen) is pitching… that’s the thrill I get, is seeing the community supporting that… and it took 450 volunteers to do that.
“That’s my reward for doing what I do – is seeing it all come together and work properly like that.”
Matthews, meanwhile, is a name familiar to longtime fans of both the Canada Cup and Canadian softball as a whole. The Earl Marriott Secondary grad spent nearly a decade with the Canadian national program, beginning in 2003 as a key member of the junior women’s team, before moving on to the Canada Elite team in 2005 and a year later, the senior national squad.
A Softball Canada news released called Matthews “one of the Canadian Women’s National Team’s best hitters of all-time.”
“Now there’s a true hall-of-famer,” said Timm of the former Team Canada slugger.
Her impact with the national squad was immediate upon making the leap from the Elite team. At the 2006 World Championships, she led the team with 20 hits and a .667 batting average. In total, she played in three world championships – 2010 and 2012 in addition to her ‘06 debut – while also donning the Maple Leaf for two Pan American Games (2007 and 2011) and the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, where Canada finished fourth.
In her three world championships combined, she had what Softball Canada called an “eye-popping” batting average of .460.
Matthews was inducted into the Softball BC Hall of Fame in 2016.
“Melanie got to the point where, at the 2012 world championships, she was the best hitter in the entire world,” said Timm. “She was a special kid, to have that kind of an impact on the game, when we’re competing against the huge American softball machine, with 1,200 universities.”
Timm credited Matthews, along with a few other players from that era, for helping boost Canadian women’s softball to where it is today, ranked No. 3 in the world.
“She moved the needle for softball in this country. She helped us set our sights higher, because for a fair amount of time we were ending up fifth through eight (at international events), and that was considered a reasonable performance for Canada at the time,” he said. “Melanie was one of the players who made us believe we could aim higher.”
Christman Lee, who retired from umpiring in 2009, had a 31-year career in softball – both on and off the field.
He umpired at a number of major international tournaments – the 1996 Men’s Softball World Championships and two Pan American Games – in addition to five Canadian Championships. He also worked 14 Canada Cup events in South Surrey.
At Canadian championships, he was served at different times as umpire-in-chief or deputy umpire-in-chief.
Lee was inducted into the Softball BC Hall of Fame in 2011.
The new inductees will be officially added to the hall during Softball Canada’s annual general meeting, set for Nov. 14-16 in Richmond.