SPRINGHILL, N.S. – Tribute was paid to James ‘Pokey’ Melanson and Paul ‘Gino’ Sharpe before the AA Springhill Fencebusters 13U team took to the ballfield in Springhill against the Truro Bearcats on July 12.
“I never would have thought that when I took over as president a few years ago that I’d be speaking at a AA baseball game hosted in Springhill or that we would have a team that had won an Atlantic championship just a couple of years ago, or that we would be hosting one again this fall,” Forrest Gallagher, past-president of Springhill Minor Baseball, said during the ceremony. “I was asked to speak today about two very important men who were able to make all of that possible.”
Melanson passed away on May 31 at the age of 83, and Sharpe passed away on May 5 at the age of 44.
Gallagher started his tribute by speaking about Melanson.
“Jim ‘Pokey’ Melanson, along with his extremely supportive wife Jewell, were responsible for keeping Springhill Minor Baseball alive when nobody else did for over 35 years,” Gallagher said. “As a president and coach, he provided a place to play and learn the game of baseball for so many players.”
Melanson knew many of the players who currently play on the 13U team.
“With this group in particular, Pokey was an avid supporter in his older years, especially during their Provincial and Atlantic championship runs,” he added. “Pokey never missed a game in those tournaments, travelling over two hours away to support these players. He was able to share in their victories and pass on his knowledge and baseball history to all of them.”
Gallagher then paid tribute to Sharpe.
“Paul Sharpe played a very important role in this group's baseball careers. He was the person who introduced many of these players to Provincial baseball when they were only nine-years-old,” Gallagher said. “Paul helped this group to their first provincial championship and set the tone for the team that would eventually become Atlantic champions.”
Besides coaching his two kids, Carter and Julia, Sharpe also coached when his children weren’t on the team.
“He did this with the unwavering support of his partner Sam and their two children Carter and Julia, who are both great baseball players today,” said Gallagher. “Even when Carter played baseball in Truro, Paul continued to support this group, attending games and tournaments and was able to share in their success.”
Before the unveiling of the new Fencebusters uniform worn by the 13U team, Gallagher spoke about what the loss of the two men means for Springhill baseball.
“Many other players and I were lucky to learn from Pokey and Paul as coaches and friends. Their loss is a major one for the community of Springhill and leaves a big hole for Springhill Minor Baseball,” Gallagher said. “Their contributions to the game will not be forgotten, and it’s only fitting that we honour them on the sleeves of our new jersey’s now and in the future.”
After the new jerseys were unveiled – with Melanson’s name on the left sleeve, and Sharpe’s name on the right – Melanson’s grandson, Jacob, and Sharpe’s partner, Sam, and nine-year-old daughter, Julia, stepped onto the pitching mound and threw out the first pitch of the game.
The AA Fencebusters won their first game in their new uniforms, beating the Bearcats 12-9.
Kieran Sears hit a home run, Phoenix Remington hit one triple and two singles, Liam Brown hit a triple, Nolan McNally and Kyler Edwards hit one double and one single each, Trey Smith-Johnston and Gregor Millard hit two singles each, Sawyer Harvey hit one single.
Following the game, the players gathered in a circle with their arms around one another and gave three cheers for Pokey and three for Gino.
The 13U Fencebusters hosted a doubleheader against the Hants East Nationals on July 14, winning the games by scores of 11-1 and 10-0.