Ball Park Sports is bidding Cloverdale a fond farewell this summer.
After 10 years in the sporting goods business, owners Merv Sandrel and Tim Everson will officially close their storefront on September 3.
“We like long goodbyes,” said Sandrel. “So we figured for a couple months we could shake everybody’s hand that supported us for 10 years.”
The decision to retire comes in part because of health concerns, and in part because “the time is right,” said Sandrel.
At 60, he said, he’s “too young to retire but too old for this kind of business. It’s a young man’s business.”
Before Ball Park Sports opened, Sandrel was in the carpet business — he owned Hallmark Carpets in White Rock. But during a game of baseball in 2007, he had a “jammer” that set him on a new path.
“I knew there was something wrong so I had a sub come in, and I sat at the dugout. ‘Hm, yeah, I think I’m having a heart attack.’ So I drove to Peace Arch Hospital — yeah, I know. I got told for it,” he laughed.
“Everything’s right as rain, but running that company for 25 years definitely must have wore on me, so I sold the business to the employees,” he said. “I always knew I wanted to have the old ma and pa sporting goods store where kids could just hang out. And at the end of the day, I wanted my last job to be fun. And it has been. The amount of kids and people we’ve met … it’s been a hoot.”
He met his business partner, Tim Everson, at baseball training — both play for the Lower Mainland Baseball Association. “He heard me talking about opening up the store and he said, ‘hey, I want in on that,” said Sandrel.
Everson is a retired school teacher, principal, and Langley school board member. “He’s coached as a school teacher — in excess of 700 teams, I bet. You know, volleyball, basketball, baseball. So he gets how important it is … to get kids playing sports and be active,” said Sandrel.
| Merv Sandrel behind the counter at Ball Park Sports in Cloverdale.
Sandrel loves “everything” about baseball, and more than anything else, loves his work as a coach.
“[It’s] important for kids, at a young age, to have structure and teamwork,” he said.
“Doesn’t matter what sport, keep the kids playing sports. Keep ‘em busy. As a parent, if I did anything right in my life, not knowing at the time, it’s keeping my kid playing sports.”
Baseball holds a special place in his heart, because, “to get a little sappy about it, baseball is a game of failure. Out of 10 at-bats, if you can hit safely three times, you’re a superstar.”
“How we teach kids to accept [failure] is the trick us coaches have to pull off,” he said.
“I do that still, coaching 21, 22-year-olds, you constantly work on accept the mistake, think about it, then brush it off and move on.”
Sandrel has volunteered his time with many baseball associations over the years, including the Cloverdale Minor Baseball Association. “Business is business but most of our fun came through the volunteer stuff,” he said.
Some of Sandrel’s favourite memories from over the years have been from the parking lot batting practices the store would hold on weekends.
“This commercial area is basically Monday to Friday, so on weekends there’s no cars parked there. We would have all the kids that would come in shopping with their parents come outside, doing batting practice and throwing footballs and doing more playing than selling.”
“I mean weekends, kids come here for two hours, and they know they don’t have to bring their wallet with them,” he said.
Through the store, Sandrel and Everson were also able to support the LMBA’s fundraisers for cancer research over the years, by providing pink bats to every team in the league during the month of May. Between 2010 and 2014, the LMBA raised $28,000.
Sandrel said he might “get a real job one day,” but for now will continue on volunteering, playing baseball with the LMBA and coaching — he currently coaches his daughter’s Cloverdale Fury team, and the Zone 4 U16 Boys Fastpitch BC Summer Games team.
After September 3, Ball Park Sports will close its storefront, and the majority of its operation. Sandrel wife, Helen, will continue working under the Ball Park Sports banner, offering clothing and corporate promotion. Eventually, they might seek out another storefront, but for now the plan is to operate the business remotely.
If you’re like the many people who have already dropped by the store to say goodbye, you’ll be able to find Sandrel behind the counter at Ball Park Sports in the meantime — or maybe in the parking lot playing ball.