Commanda-Pelletier team at home plate.

SERPENT RIVER FIRST NATION Over the Labour Day weekend, scores of people came to play in or watch a memorial slow pitch tournament on the new baseball field in Serpent River First Nation (SRFN) to honour Connor Pelletier-Commanda. The 17-year-old young man lost his life in July of last year as a result of a tragic multi-vehicle car accident not far from his home.

Connor was well known in the North East as a standout player in both baseball and hockey.  With persistence and grace, he participated in sports that he loved with a finesse and style of play beyond his young age.  Connor was one of those players who, by all accounts was a natural.  He had a kind temperament both on and off the field of play according to his mother Miranda.  Being a skilled performer on the ice and playing field, he was the perfect role model for others, and a delight to watch.

Pelletier was honoured in life with the Ojibwa name “Naaytawash”, meaning Soaring Eagle.  Anishinaabe teachings suggest, “The Eagle represents a state of grace that is reached through inner work, understanding and passing the initiation tests that result from reclaiming our personal power.”  With all of Connor’s achievements at such an early age, this young man surely passed all of the “initiation tests” and he had a lot of personal power. 

Connor’s parents Chad Commanda and Miranda Pelletier as well as Rebecca Pelletier were the key organizers of the memorial tournament. 

“Teams from the North Shore and all the way from Alberta came to remember my son who was very passionate about sports including baseball,” said Miranda.  16 teams competed in the tournament over a three-day period.  All monies raised from the tournament are being used to set up two bursaries in Connor’s memory to benefit high school students from Espanola, Elliot Lake and Blind River.  In addition to the bursary awards, an award will be made to the athlete of the year at Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School in Elliot Lake.  “We’re attaching $200 to help out and to honour Connor.” 

The three top teams in the tournament received prizes as well as the most valuable player (MVP) from each team.  Opposing teams picked the MVP on each team while the MVP for the championship was chosen by the umpires.

A commemorative plaque was placed on the home team bench to honour Pelletier.  The permanent plaque reads: Because someone we love is in heaven, we have a little piece of heaven on the field.  Connor was a star athlete and a perfect model for many youths along the North Shore including the city of Sudbury, which featured a candid photo of him in the Sudbury Star on the front page of their sports section when he was playing there a few years ago.

Many area businesses went into their wallets to sponsor and support the tournament including the Sumac Tee Pee company, Scone and Wong confectionary, Rona Lumber in Elliot Lake and Massey, McDougal Energy and the SRFN Economic Development Office as well as many others.

Throughout the tournament volunteers sold hot food, snacks and drinks to assist with building funds for the bursary.  Souvenirs including tee shirts and bandanas were also sold. Tournament organizers put on a licensed dance on Saturday night at the SRFN Band Hall with a DJ playing the tunes. AJ Bus Lines in Blind River provided free transportation to and from the dance from Elliot Lake at 7 pm and returned party goers a ride back  at 2 am.

The Commanda-Pelletier family team along with all the others sported the logo “CPC 28” on their jerseys commemorating Connor Pelletier-Commanda who wore number 28 while playing baseball. 

Connor’s mother Miranda summed it all up saying: “I can’t thank all of the volunteers from our community and surrounding area enough, we just want everybody to have fun and enjoy the tournament.”  Organizers are planning on making this tournament an annual event to honour a great local athlete who excelled in hockey and baseball and unknowingly but with a youthful elegance took on the part of being a role model for other youth—Connor (Naaytawash) Pelletier-Commanda will be remembered.