The UBC Thunderbirds proudly showed off their new digs, named after a Tsawwassen resident who has been the heart and soul of the women’s softball team for nearly a decade.
Gord Collings opened his ball field by throwing the ceremonial first pitch as UBC entertained cross-town rival Simon Fraser University on Oct. 2. The result of the game was secondary to the celebration for a program that now gets to play right at the Point Grey campus after being based out of Softball City in South Surrey.
Upgrades to the ball diamond, located at the south end of the campus in Wesbrook Village, included a resurfaced field, new dugouts, bullpens, bleachers and fencing. The Collings Field project was made possible with support from the university, the Collings Stevens Family Foundation and a fundraising campaign spearheaded by volunteers from the softball community.
“It was totally unexpected,” the popular former teacher and principal in the Delta School District told the Optimist after the re-naming of the field was announced. “It’s such a numbing experience to be recognized like that.
“It’s a game changer. Not only in terms of the athletes being able to play in front of other students, but for the administration and staff to see and get an exposure to our game too,” continued Collings. “It’s difficult to drive out to Softball City on a Friday afternoon. Practicing and playing on our own field will be huge, and now when we are recruiting, we can bring them out to look at our park and tie it all in.”
The re-naming of the field pays tribute to the 71-year-old former Delta School District teacher and principal who has spent decades coaching softball at all levels.
Collings took over as the Thunderbirds head coach in 2013, after he earlier launched a program at Douglas College and spent years as coach of the Delta Heat and South Delta Invaders teams. He also guided B.C. teams at the Canada Summer Games. Along the way he coached all three of his daughters.
His tenure at UBC includes fighting for the team’s survival at one point after an overall “sport review” of varsity athletics recommended women’s softball be dropped.
“We decided to fight back and get recognized as a varsity sport. Now we’ve got the support of the administration with president Ono and vice president Kennedy so having them onboard and the support of the departments too is just huge,” he said.
Collings can’t wait for his team to be regularly playing out of his park. The program has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 campaign coming to an abrupt halt just a few weeks into the schedule and the 2021 season not happening at all.
The hope is the Thunderbirds will play a full Cascade Conference schedule next spring.