April 24, 2006
In the fourth of 10 provincial association profiles, Baseball Canada speaks with Manitoba Baseball Association President Ken Sharpe about the upcoming 2006 season.
BASEBALL CANADA (BCAN) – In no particular order, what five events or initiatives are you looking forward to the most as you are in the midst of kicking off the 2006 baseball season?
1. Baseball Canada National Senior Championship: Brandon, Manitoba
KEN SHARPE (KS) – 1. Because Québec wasn’t able to host it, the tournament wasn’t awarded to Brandon until this past spring. It’s an awfully big thing to try to organize in a matter of three or four months, but it’s moving along nicely.
Brandon was very excited about the opportunity. The city has a tremendous history of putting together tournaments like this. It seems as though the city is just about the right size at around 40,000 people because everybody really gets into it. In some bigger centres there are so many other things going on that one event might get lost in the mix.
This will be a major event in Brandon and I’m confident that it’s going to be successful. It’s just going to be a lot of work in a very short period of time.
BCAN – How comforting is it to know that this event was awarded to a community that is very sport-minded and that has a wealth of experience putting major events together?
KS – It’s wonderful. They’re able to get off the ground very quickly and get funds in the bank very quickly so that they’re not waiting before getting the initial preparations underway. They have a lot of people involved in the planning and organization to make sure it’s going to be a wonderful tournament.
Brandon has Westbran stadium, which was built for the World Youth Championships in 1991. It holds about 5,000 people and during the youth championships they sold out every game. We’re going to hold as many games as possible at that stadium.
Although Brandon is hosting the majority of the games, we are also going to play some games in every one of the towns that are a part of our senior baseball league.
BCAN – Why did you decided to have all of these communities host games rather than exclusively hold the tournament in one central location?
KS – We’re really trying to get teams in the senior league more involved. In the league there are six teams – two from Brandon and four from smaller surrounding communities (Killarney, Oak River, Birtle, Neepawa). Those communities themselves are not big enough to ever have the opportunity to host a national tournament, but to get one game will be special. It’ll be the event of the season for those communities. I think it’ll be a lot of fun.
It also kind of takes the pressure off of Brandon a little bit because that’s four games they don’t have to worry about. On short notice, that’s a lot of help.
2. Changes to provincial championship format
KS - We’ve changed our provincial championship around a little bit. What we used to do was put together tournaments where the top four or five teams would compete for the right to go to the national championships. On the long weekend of August we’ll bring in 12 to 15 teams from various regions and try to get all of the teams into these tournaments. When you have five or six teams it’s nice, but it’s a lot more exciting when you have a dozen.
I think the games will be more exciting and we’ll be able to create a more event-like atmosphere around these tournaments. For example, if you go into a small town of about 2,000 people and you’re brining in 12 bantam teams it makes quite a difference in that community. We tried this at the midget level last year and now we’re going to do it at all levels.
My long-term goal with this is to be able to select a provincial team from each age group to go the nationals. Because this is in its infancy we’re just beginning to talk about that possibility. As opposed to just having the top four or five teams there, we might have tremendous players that we otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to evaluate because their teams never got out of their region. It’ll just give everybody a little bit more exposure.
BCAN – Now that you will be bringing in all of these extra teams to those tournaments does that change the format of competition at these events?
KS – Yes. There won’t simply be two pools of teams now. We wouldn’t want to have pools of six or eight teams, especially when you get into the Bantam and Pee Wee age groups where you have restrictions on the use of your pitchers. We’re looking at going to three-pool or four-pool formats so that we aren’t completely wearing out pitchers.
3. Individual Membership Fees
KS – One of the things that we’re moving to this year that I think is really going to help us is introducing individual membership fees, and this is in response to what’s going on at Baseball Canada. It’s been a big job for our office because we used to have team fees and now we want to be able to identify every player.
Firstly, it will help direct the cost to the appropriate places and secondly it will help get away from having 18 players on one team. I think we had some teams that were a little bit bigger than what I would have liked to see. In my mind that’s just not the way to go.
We also want to make sure that when the “fee per player” system goes through at Baseball Canada that we’ll already be there and we’ll be ready for it.
4. Rally Cap Program
KS – Last year we ran our Rally Cap Program as a pilot project in a couple of places and we had really good response. This year we ordered 1,000 caps and after speaking with our executive director recently, it looks like we’re not nearly going to have enough because we have a bunch of areas that are really excited about it and are going to run the program. We hope that this is really going to add to our participation numbers. If we can run this properly and get more kids involved at the introductory level it’s going to help with our Pee-Wee numbers and beyond that.
It’s a very structured program that makes things easier on coaches because the drills are there and you only teach a certain skill set. In Manitoba, it would be nice to say that we have an abundance of coaches, but we don’t. In a lot of the smaller communities, we have parents that are basically given a group of 10 to 12 kids for the season and it can be overwhelming. They might not know where to go and what to teach them. This program tells you exactly which skills the kids need to learn and what you should do to teach them those skills. It makes things a lot easier for everybody.
Hats off to Peter Craig from Nova Scotia and the rest of his committee that came up with this because this is a program that’s going to work very well.
See http://www.baseball.ca/eng_doc.cfm?DocID=212&Related=13 for more information about Baseball Canada’s Rally Cap Program.
5. Initiation Coach Certification
KS – We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback about the new National Coaching Certification Program initiatives, so we’re trying to push it and encourage more coaches to get that online training and acquire more knowledge.
The biggest single issue in baseball is good coaching, and we are lacking trained coaches in Manitoba. Anything we can do to make it easier for potential coaches to gain at least the basic knowledge they need to feel more comfortable on the field is great.
This program is a simple, basic, easy thing to do. It’s done online and it gives you all of the essential tools that you need to become a good coach. Furthermore, it’s driven by Baseball Canada, which is what we need. There has to be a parent organization helping us along the way, giving us the guidance that we need and coming up with drills that really help the kids. These aren’t coming out of somebody’s backyard after thinking “hey this is a good idea”. All of this just lends to the credibility of your program.
See http://www.baseball.ca/eng_news_story.cfm?NewsID=811 for more information about the new NCCP program.
Want to learn more about Baseball Manitoba? Visit their website at www.mbbaseball.ca .
That wraps up this week's edition of Play Ball 2006! Come back next week as Baseball Canada sits down with Baseball Ontario President Don McKnight.
Schedule:May 1: Play Ball 2006! Baseball OntarioMay 8: Play Ball 2006! Baseball QuébecMay 15: Play Ball 2006! Baseball New BrunswickMay 22: Play Ball 2006! Baseball Nova ScotiaMay 29: Play Ball 2006! P.E.I. Amateur Baseball AssociationJune 5: Play Ball 2006! Baseball Newfoundland