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PURSUIT: Things are buzzing with Newmarket Stingers after 50 years

The girls minor softball organization will step up to the plate for its 50th season in 2024, amid one of the largest popularity booms the sport has ever witnessed in the town
The Newmarket Stingers are marking its 50th anniversary in 2024, at a time when the association is growing at a new pace.

The Newmarket Stingers are thrilled about turning 50.

The girls minor softball organization will step up to the plate for its 50th season of house league and select play in 2024, amid one of the largest popularity booms the sport has ever witnessed in the town.

In the last two years, the Stingers’ membership has doubled to become one of the fastest growing softball associations in the region. Last year alone, the club added four teams.

The organization has big plans to make next year its best season yet. 

Stingers executive director Glenn Burton is looking forward to celebrating the club’s history and the many players and volunteers who helped build the organization.

“It’s really about turning the lens inwards for a season and celebrating who we are and where we’ve come from and hopefully get everybody on board to say, ‘hey let’s grow this thing, this is a lot of fun, let’s build this to where it can be in the next five to 10 years,” said Burton. 

The club intends to welcome back alumni to participate in exhibition games and to collaborate with the town to create unique pieces of art that tell the story of softball in Newmarket. Burton also hopes to create more spaces to play the rapidly growing game.

The Stingers made great strides last year in establishing Newmarket as one of the superior softball towns in the area. They hosted four tournaments, including one at the end of August that welcomed 24 teams from across the province. The tournament was a massive success and other communities have taken notice of the Stingers’ commitment to softball.

“The facilities are top notch right now and when our visitors come in and we’re hosting, they’re blown away cause we know they don’t have this where they play, so they want to come to Newmarket,” said Burton. 

Furthermore, the Stingers are fuelled by the buzz that has once again returned to its diamonds — especially after the pandemic.

“The diamonds are full again. You go there on some weeknights and you wonder what’s going on because you think this can’t just be softball,” said Burton. Tuesday nights last year were like a party with all three diamonds going at [Ray] Twinney and parking lots full. There’s music going, there’s snacks being sold and everything going on.”

Softball’s roots run deeper in Newmarket than residents might expect — going back even further than when the Stingers were established in 1974. In the past, the town has hosted provincial and national championships, along with other large-scale tournaments that included 40 teams spread out over 10 diamonds at once. 

The Stingers also have a long list of accolades and accomplished alumni. Newmarket teams have won provincial championships and many house league and select level pennants over the years. The most successful former player is Dr. Robin Mackin, a 2008 Beijing Olympian with team Canada and a member of Newmarket’s Sports Hall of Fame. 

Burton also aspires to return Newmarket softball to some of the heights it experienced in the 1990s and early 2000s before sport participation started to decline around 2010. The organization has switched to a model that focuses on increasing girls’ participation in softball and working together with other nearby softball associations to ensure girls continue to play. The club also has a number of targets for the number of female coaches and umpires. 

There is a lot of excitement around the Stingers for its 2024 campaign, which makes it a great time for anyone interested in playing softball to join. Check out the club’s website for more information on registration and the different leagues that are offered. 

The sustained success of the club and commitment to growing elite ball players on and off the field suggest it won’t be long before the Stingers are celebrating a diamond jubilee. At the very least, the accomplishments of the organization will certainly take some of the sting out of turning 50.