With the local Chatham Diamonds, Maple City Brewers, and Minor Baseball in Wallaceburg, Dresden, and other corners of Chatham-Kent well underway, it seems that baseball is alive and well in CK, and across Canada.
“I think it’s come a long way from the years I played. It used to be just pitching, but now you get Justin Mornow and Joey Votto, guys coming along like that, that have won MVP awards. It’s outstanding,” said Milwaukee Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin in an interview earlier this spring regarding the growth of baseball in Canada.
“When you’re younger you’ve got to have players to look up to. That’s what I had growing up, I looked up to Fergie Jenkins once he had success. Once the Canadian players have success, those are role models to look up to for young baseball talent. There’s a lot of them out there now,” continued Melvin.
Melvin did however, point to the tendency for Canadian youth to choose one sport and stick to it, rather than building their skills across a variety of games; a trend he is not fond of,
“When I was younger players participated in all sports, but that’s where things have changed today, players seem to gravitate to one sport at a very young age. I don’t think it’s a good thing, but that’s the way it is today.”
Melvin also spoke of the importance parents play, as well as coaches, in building the game of baseball at the Little League level in Canada.
“My parents drove me around and were always there to support me. Those are some of the best memories you have when you play Little League Baseball,” said Melvin. “During that time and I think it’s a noticeable difference, our parents watched the games. When I was growing up, the parents let the coaches do their job. I think it’s important that they do that. I know it’s very tough sometimes, I was a parent myself, to sit back and watch the game be played, and let the kids enjoy playing and have fun playing. At that level it’s not as much about winning, as much as it is about participating and the gamesmanship and the responsibility and the teamwork that’s involved.”
Overall, Melvin is very pleased with the growth of baseball in Canada, and according to him, the opportunity is there for youth in Chatham to enjoy, and excel at the sport.
“Baseball has really grown in popularity (in Canada). I think a lot of the sports have grown in popularity with television. Baseball was very good to me with the Little League programs in Chatham and it was a stepping stone to get into the game.”