The Team Canada men’s fastpitch team will participate in the Kelowna May Days Fastpitch Tournament for the first time this weekend, facing Andre’s Athletics. (Kyle Blanleil photo)

Best of the best: Team Canada ready for fierce competition at Kelowna fastpitch tournament

Team Canada friendlies kick off the tournament Thursday night

Some of the best fastpitch players in the world are showing their skills this weekend in Kelowna.

The annual Kelowna May Days Fastpitch Tournament began Thursday at King’s Stadium with two exhibition games featuring the Team Canada men’s team.

Team Canada kicks off tournament play today (Friday) with a game against Kelowna Andre’s Athletics.

Team Canada coach John Stuart said the tournament is great for his team leading up to the world championships, which will take place in Prague next month.

“We’re doing things as a team and as Team Canada, and everyone’s excited to get started as we hope to be able to put in as much time as we can in Kelowna,” said Stuart.

“It’s a great opportunity for us with us going to Prague, it was imperative to get out and train.

“We still expect the competition to be very good for us, there’s always talented players who are here. The tournament is the reason I wanted to come to (Kelowna), and the guys are all in awe of Kelowna, the weather and the city.”

READ MORE: Country stars and former NHL’ers hit the ice in the South Okanagan

Participating teams come from all over Canada, including Saskatoon and Grande Prairie, along with local Okanagan teams from Kelowna and Vernon.

Individual players making up the teams are some of the best fastpitch players from the U.S., Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.

Tournament organizer Richard Haldane said although fastpitch is a small and niche sport, it is entertaining for the fans.

“The biggest thing is the atmosphere and the competition, everyone gets to play against the best, and (fans) love when they come out,” said Haldane.

This will be the first time Team Canada has participated in the May Days tournament, and it will face some tough competition.

“It was great timing with (the team) going to Prague, and to kick off the year and face other pitchers and get them ready,” said Haldane.

READ MORE: UBC Okanagan brings in wave of soccer talent

“Team Canada is the favourite, but anyone can beat anyone on any given day. Everyone wants to play against the best, and if you can knock them off, there you go.”

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