Just a shade over eleven kilometers north of Cobourg lies a pretty valley right between two steep hills and therein lies the tiny hamlet of Cold Springs.
With a population today of less than 200 souls one would be hard pressed to imagine that anything representing this mainly rural community would ever gain much prominence, but that’s exactly what happened beginning in the mid-1970’s with the Cold Springs Cats emerging as a provincial fastball powerhouse, but the roots of that unforeseen success go further back still, all the way back to 1951 and the inside of an elementary school classroom at Cold Springs Public School.
One of the students in that class was a ten-year old Ewart Timlin and it was his grade five teacher, Ms. Hebert who helped to spark a desire inside of him, a passion that has remained with him over the seven decades that followed. In addition to teaching, Ms. Hebert also played hockey and softball, with a rather high level of proficiency. That influence along with that of his mother, Olive, and sisters Marie and Lorene, all of whom played on the Ladies softball team in Cold Springs helped draw young Ewart towards the sport.
After a few years watching from the bench, taking the game in, slowly learning it’s intricacies, while all the while working towards improving his own skills, Ewart finally got the tap on the shoulder to take the field when he was 15 and in just five years he held the dual positions of player-coach with Cold Springs, a position he would hold for the next two decades (after which he commenced a 25-year Slo-Pitch playing career).
Serving in the roles of player, coach, and manager, Ewart Timlin guided the Cold Springs Cats throughout the 1960’s and early ‘70’s as a part of the Ontario Amateur Softball Association (OASA) and the Hamilton Township League, before, in search of a higher level of competition, the team petitioned to join the Peterborough City League for the 1975 season, and despite misgivings about their ability to compete, Cold Springs was reluctantly added to the league. A subsequent first place finish in the league and the OASA Intermediate C championship put those initial doubts to rest.
The following season, 1976, saw the “Cats” repeat as Ontario Intermediate “C” Champs and then four years later, in 1980, the “Cats” added the Ontario Senior “A” fastball championship to their ever-increasing trophy case. “That was the biggest highlight of my career” Ewart says today, “because no one expected us to win this prestigious Championship and represent Ontario in the Canadian Amateur Championship Tournament in Saskatchewan.”
By no means did the winning end there, and by the end of the decade, the Cats, still guided by Ewart, took home the OASA Intermediate B championship. And then came the establishment in the winter of 1995-96 of the Masters level by the OASA, a category designed for as Ewart puts it “players who had achieved a certain level of maturity in physical and mental outlook”.
What followed was a renaissance for the Cold Springs Cats. From 1996 to 2011 the Cats participated in more than 20 Masters events, winning 2 Canadian Masters Championships, an Eastern Canadian title plus three gold, two silver, and three bronze OASA Masters Championships. In addition, the Cats dominated the North Bay World Senior Men’s Fastball Championship, winning seven gold medals, and two silvers in their ten appearances.
Along with all of the team success a multitude of individual honours have been bestowed on Ewart.
In 1981, he was named the Citizen of the Year in Hamilton Township. Thirty years later, he was the first recipient of the Len Hewitt Award. In 2011 and 2012 the OASA named him as the association’s Honorary Vice-President and 2012 also saw him presented with the Cobourg Legion’s “Giving Back” trophy. Two years later in 2014, Ewart was inducted into the Ontario Masters Fastball Hall of Fame and four years after that he came full circle after he was named the Senior Citizen of the Year in Hamilton Township.
And yet despite all of the team success and individual honours, and they have been numerous, Ewart maintains this is only a part of what has made his lifetime spent in and around the sport of softball so rewarding.
"I love the game so much because of all the skill development involved, and the camaraderie," says Ewart, a retired teacher and vice-principal. "Off the field friendships are just as important than what happens on the field, and I've met friends from coast to coast because of my involvement in softball."
Surely, Ms. Hebert would look on approvingly.
Cold Springs Cats
An excellent summary of my history in softball