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Softball HMiller 6 webThere’s something special about the annual Winter Texas softball Can-Am (Canada-America) games.

Whether it’s listening to long-ago remembered stories of the “Blizzard of 66” to talking about ice fishing in Minnesota to Ed Martens retelling of how he snuck out of a military hospital to go play a baseball game for his team, there’s always something enjoyable.

This year was no different and the teams in both games put up quite a show as Canada captured the first game 9-7 (the less competitive division) and the all-stars from the competitive division showed off their offensive skills with 30 runs and a 16-14 USA victory.

Softball HMiller 2 webThe parking lot at Westside Park in McAllen was filled with license plates from at least 15 states, the stands were flurrying with flags for both Canada and USA and, maybe the most traditional moment was the singing of both country’s national anthem (and, of course, the hot dogs because as we know, hot dogs are always better at baseball and softball games.)

Martens, the game’s namesake, recalled in detail how the contest came about more than 27 years ago.

Softball HMiller 10 web“I got a phone call late one night, it was about 11 p.m. and I was about to go to bed,” Martens said. “The guy on the other end said ‘we have to have a US-Canada game.’ He was from Canada but he also worked in Duluth, Minnesota so he was a little bit of both. And, ironically, his name was Steve Cannon – so there you have the Can-Am game. So, it’s kind of named after him in a way.”

Martens said the reason they play the games every year is simple – the players like it – but even more “we play it for the fans and play it to have fun.”

Softball HMiller 5 webKen Huybers is from Appleton, Wisconsin and has been playing softball since 2001, the first year he came to the Valley. In 2016 he became a full-time resident.
“I had heard about it and a guy I met brought me, we played at Mission High School, and I’ve played ever since,” he said. “I started as a pitcher years ago then they shifted me to the outfield since they wanted people with legs in the outfield.”

“Most recently I’ve been catching.”

He’s also an active exercise fiend – putting miles on his bike or out running. Living in Wisconsin, Texas just appealed to him, he said.

“I came here for vacation in 1998 and the first place we came to was Mission, Texas and I haven’t left since. It’s just great here. We considered going up to the hill country for a part of the year, but to come right down to it, people are friendly, traffic isn’t as bad, restaurants aren’t as crowded and it’s just an all-around good place to live.”

Being able to play softball at the beginning of March with 70-degree weather and sunny skies is an attraction as well.

“My background is baseball. I played in the Philippines – I got $10 a game playing, in the service, you don’t get rich,” said Martens, who not only organizes, but had played for years until health issues ended that. “I’ve adjusted quickly. I enjoy it, it’s the local people – if they weren’t as nice as they are, I wouldn’t hold shop here.”