Ladysmith’s boys and girls of summer took to the field with a few of the Victoria HarbourCats players last week, practicing both their glove skills as well as taking a few swings at the plate.
It was the first time the mid-Island tour had been organized, bringing together top-level collegiate athletes and local youth as the bus rolled into Duncan, Chemainus, Lake Cowichan and here in Ladysmith last Monday.
“We certainly did a lot of things just to reiterate how fun the game is and the message that I hope they get is that all these players are collegiate athletes,” said Jim Swanson, managing partner for the HarbourCats.
“It means they’ve kept their nose clean, they’ve worked extremely hard not only at playing baseball and loving the the game, but they’ve worked very, very hard at their schooling.”
Eight players from Victoria’s summer-collegiate baseball team who play in the West Coast League met with the local youth for close to an hour.
Days off are valuable for the HarbourCats players who last year played 64 games in 73 days. Following the tour they were gearing up for a series against Kelowna.
“I think this is something we’ll look for a spot in our schedule to do this again next year,” Swanson said. “The fun part for me is I want to hear our players tell their teammates about how they missed out on something fun today.”
Credit was also given to the local schools who promoted the event on the calendar to encourage youth to attend the ‘field’ trip that started in the early afternoon.
Ladysmith Baseball Association’s Marty Steen, also the Baseball Chair for the BC Summer Games coming up in Cowichan next month, played a key role in organizing the tour and said these types of events help to put local baseball and softball on the map.
“Ladysmith is growing in terms of numbers as far as baseball and lots of our kids are going off to college so this gives them another goal to work at, and to see some of these young athletes that are from the Island on the HarbourCats, and to know that they can make it to the next level and to stay in school,” he said.
Several of the HarbourCats took batting practice, swinging for the fences at the Holland Creek Ballpark, as the future stars competed for bragging rights as they chased down fly balls in the outfield.
On the other diamond, younger players refined their ground and flyball skills with others from the HarbourCats roster as well as the coaching staff.
On hand were head coach Brian McRae, a retired centre fielder who spent 10 years in the MLB as well as assistant coach Todd Haney, a former second baseman who played 101 games in the majors.
Baseball BC was also integral to organizing the event both as a sponsor and promoter of community outreach.
“Having this many kids out and excited about baseball on a school day is pretty exciting and the four stops they’re making on the Island is also interesting for us to see the interest from a grassroots standpoint,” said executive director David Laing, who was also in Ladysmith last week.
“We’re also coming over here in the back end of July for the BC Summer Games so it’s a chance for us to get into the community and meet some of the people, some of the volunteers and check some of the facilities out. It’s been a great fit for us all and all.”