Players and fans flock to Canton Thursday nights for league play

By Charlie Warner

Twenty years ago, Canton was a hotbed for slow-pitch softball. The Fillmore County community had a league that included 10 teams that competed every Tuesday evening. Games began at 6 p.m., with the last game concluding around midnight. Not only was the ballpark filled with players, but it wasn’t uncommon to have several hundred fans taking in the action as well. Canton had one of the top ball fields in the area, with new lights, a homerun fence, new dugouts and stadium seating.

Interest in slow-pitch waned a number of years ago, and the league folded in 2015 when there were just and handful of teams competing.

Members of the Canton American Legion didn’t want to see the once very active
facility fall into disrepair, so they continued to keep the field up and encouraged area youth to participate in pick-up games.   

Last year Canton resident Mason Huerkamp was discussing starting up a league with some of his friends. The more these ball players talked about it, the more enthused they became.

“I sent out a text message to a bunch of my friends and got some positive feedback,” Huerkamp recalled. “Within a few days, we had enough players for three teams.” Then, Huerkamp was contacted by additional prospective players, and before he knew it, he was organizing a seven-team league.

With the help of Logan Richardson, also from Canton, Huerkamp put the league together and play began the first Thursday in June.

“We had a great turnout right from the start,” Huerkamp noted. “And, we had more players who wanted to bring more teams into the league, but we already had the schedule made out.”

The seven-team league includes five teams from the Canton-Mabel area, one from Spring Grove and one from Harmony. It is a quasi-coed league, with three of the teams made of just men, one team with one lady, two co-ed teams and one all-lady team.

When asked if the all-lady team is competitive, Huerkamp was quick to say, “Oh yes. They all played high school softball and they are right in the middle to the standings.”

With an odd number of teams, one team has a bye each week. Games begin at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. on Thursday nights. And the Canton ballpark is once again a flurry of activity, as friends and family fill the stands and/or lounge in lawn chairs, as they take in the action. Huerkamp’s two sisters, Amanda Jansen and Emily Kiehne, help operate a concession stand (when they’re not playing) and offer up a variety of snacks and treats for the players and spectators. 

The season will culminate with a double-elimination tournament, which will be held during the Canton Day Off celebration. The tournament will begin Thursday, August 17, with games played on Friday, Aug. 18, and the championship round on Sunday, Aug. 20.

When asked if plans are to continue the league again next year, Huerkamp said most definitely and figures a couple more teams will probably be added to expand the league. For more information about the Canton Softball League, visit the league’s Facebook page.   

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