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Sport this week: Prince Albert hosts major softball events

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YORKTON – If you're a fan of men's softball (I still think it's fastball) at the highest level, then you must be thrilled that the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) has announced the 2024 WBSC Men's Softball World Cup Group Sta

YORKTON – If you are a fan of men's softball (I still think it's fastball) at the highest level, then you must be thrilled that the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) has awarded the group stage of the 2024 WBSC Men's Softball World Cup and the final round of the 2025 World Cup to Canada, and more specifically, Prince Albert.

Both events will take place in July 2024 and 2025 respectively at Prime Ministers Park.

The 2024 group stage will consist of three groups of six teams that qualified in their respective continental qualifiers. The top two teams from each group and two wildcard participants will qualify for the 2025 World Cup finals.

Canada will of course participate in the 2024 stage event, but is already scheduled to be the host team for the 2025 World Cup finals tournament.

“It’s incredible to think about,” said Justin Laskowski of Saskatoon.

Laskowski, an infielder, has been a member of Team Canada for some time and is among 30 players listed as possible team members for 2025.

Laskowski said he remembers Saskatoon hosting the World Championship in 2009 and he had the opportunity to play bat boy for Japan.

When Saskatoon hosted again in 2015, Laskowski drove a golf cart from the parking lot to the stands for fans.

It was also the year that Devon McCullough of Saskatoon led Canada to gold.

“It was my dream to be a part of it one day,” Laskowski said.

Prince Albert has hosted international softball events in the past, including the 2018 U18 Men's World Championship, where Canada finished fourth.

Laskowski attended several games and said the event was extremely well organised, which no doubt helped to secure future events.

The qualifying games taking place – including the one in Pennsylvania this summer – are new for the World Softball Association.

“These qualifiers are great. It's just another big tournament for the fans to watch,” Laskowski said.

Canada will be looking to perform well in July, but will still advance as hosts, a situation that Laskowski believes could have positive consequences.

“I think it could be to our advantage,” he said, adding that with the pressure to finish in the top two, the team could work on team chemistry and make sure everyone is comfortable in their intended roles through 2025.

“It will be more about growing as a team and growing together.”

Personally, Laskowski said it will be great to have friends and family in the stands at every game.

The Canadian team is currently ranked second in the official WBSC rankings after winning the silver medal at the 2022 Men's Softball World Championship.

Australia is the current WBSC men's softball world champion, defeating four-time winners Canada in 2022.

Thanks to a great pitching performance by Jack Besgrove, fourth-ranked Australia defeated then world number three Canada 5-2 to win the title in Auckland, New Zealand.

The USA took bronze.

With the silver medal, Canada was the most successful team in the WBSC Men's Softball World Cup with 14 medals – four gold, six silver and four bronze – and was thus ahead of New Zealand with 13 medals.