August 7, 2010
From the Saskatoon Star Phoenix
One of world’s best softball catchers
Had strong arm. Named to Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame
By CORY WOLFE, Postmedia News; Saskatoon StarPhoenix August 7, 2010
Once regarded as the world’s best softball catcher, Jay Sim died unexpectedly on Tuesday.
Sim suffered a heart attack while walking with his wife, Barb, at a lake north of Saskatoon. He was 52.
“It’s shocking,” said pitching legend Gene McWillie, who hurled thousands of pitches into Sim’s mitt. “That’s one of the last things I would have expected, to see him pass away this early. It’s a shame. We’ll miss him.
“Saskatoon will miss him.”
Born and raised in the city, Sim became a key contributor to the national program. He was a member of the last Canadian team to win the softball world championship with a dramatic comeback victory in 1992.
“He was a guy who came out of nowhere and became probably the best catcher in the world,” said local softball organizer Keith McLean. “He caught the best pitching staff in the world probably better than anybody ever could.
“When you’re catching guys like (Mike) Piechnik and McWillie and (Rob) Guenter in their prime, it becomes a matter of being a general and running the game. That was one of his big strengths.”
Sim also owned a deceptively quick release. Opponents who thought they’d found a weakness in Sim’s game soon learned otherwise, said Mc-Lean.
“He had a unique way of throwing the ball to second. As soon as teams saw that, they thought they would steal. But after one attempt, they never tried again. He had a gun to second base.”
Sim’s achievements earned him a spot in the Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame in November 1992, just eight months after he retired from softball. The previous spring, he helped Canada win the world championship in the Philippines.
“Winning the world championship was the dream of any fast-pitch softball player,” Sim said at the time. “And the way we won it, it was probably the most exciting game I’ve ever played in.”
Down 3-0 to New Zealand in the fifth inning, Canada tied the game with a three-run homer by Jody Hennigar. Mark Smith’s two-out, two-run double lifted Canada to victory in extra innings. Canada has not claimed the title since.
Sim also earned gold for Canada at the 1987 Pan-American Games, the 1989 Challenge Cup in Saskatoon, the 1990 Pan American qualifier and the 1991 Pan American Games.
“I felt really confident with him behind the plate,” said McWillie. “I had no worries at all when Jay was back there. I enjoyed it and I knew that I could depend on him to do the job.”
The two rarely spoke on the diamond or in the dugout, added McWillie. They didn’t have to.
“We were just on the same page. I very seldom shook him off as far as signals -and I’m a pretty independent guy. But he had a good feel for me and what I liked to throw. I was really comfortable with Jay.”
Off the field, Sim was always jovial and a committed family man, said McWillie.
“I didn’t hear him say bad things about other people or anything like that. He was very honourable. I was shocked and saddened to hear of his passing.”