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Celebrating the life of Bobby Fleming in a most appropriate way
2021-09-13

Saturday, August 21st was a beautiful day for ball.

Fastball, slo-pitch, blooperball - it really didn't matter.

With teams on the field from morning until nicely into the evening at the Rick McDonald Memorial Park in Azilda, the complex was a bustle of activity throughout the day.

On most Saturdays akin to this one, that would have meant a chance to see Rob Fleming sitting quietly, adjacent to the diamond, keeping score, helping out wherever he could.

Sadly, the March 31st passing of the long-time hockey and ball mainstay would mean that one and all would have to come to terms with his absence. Happily, they did so by honouring his memory, hosting a day of ball as part of a celebration of life for the much appreciated helper of all things sport.

"When he passed, we had raised more than $3000 towards a celebration of life, asking a few people to get involved," noted event organizer Rick Chartrand. "It took about three weeks to bring this all together."

With countless players from both the Rayside-Balfour Men's Slo-Pitch League and the Rick McDonald Men's Fastball League on hand, laughs and tears and cherished memories were shared.

"Bobby was the main man here," said Chartrand. "He was here for everybody: for the umpires, the league organizers, people like myself, Junior (Ilnitski) with the fastball, the Chelmsford Mixed League."

Fleming was always around to assist with the Miners for Cancer hockey tournament, with the group donating a placque in his honour. A memorial bench noting his contribution to the community will be placed at the field.

"He's always been one to help," noted his sister, Bev Peters, whose ex-husband Chris helped introduce Fleming to the world of scorekeeping. "If you needed help, you just had to call him up and he would come."

"If he didn't have any baseball of hockey already, he would be there."

"He would get so made if it rained and he wouldn't be able to do any games," said his mother, Laura Fleming with a smile. Celebrating her 81st birthday soon, she relied on her only son for plenty of help after the passing of her husband.

Clearly, she wasn't alone.

"Whenever he was walking down the street, he would see somebody that he knew from hockey or ball," said Fleming.

"He was scorekeeping, setting up bases and the pitching cage for the past 15 or 20 years," said Chartrand. "It's crazy how long Bobby was involved."

A big part of that longevity was thanks to an earnest desire to ensure that in an area where excellence is measured by impeccable precision, the art of accurate sport statistics, Fleming was meeting the highest of standards.

"He always wanted to do his very best," said Peters. "He figured is he always did his best, he would get to do it longer."

As folks continued to mingle, those involved in making the day happen smiled in the background.

"It's an honour to do this," said Chartrand. An honour well deserved for Bobby Fleming.

Northern Ontario AAA Hockey League