This Year in Baseball is a regular feature on Baseball.ca that will preview the year ahead in baseball from the 10 Provincial organizations. As we move across the nation from West to East, we take an in-depth look at Baseball Ontario.
If you want to see a province that has been a model of consistency over the years, look no further than Baseball Ontario.
Baseball Ontario has achieved success at the high performance level while also continuing to produce solid results when it comes to grassroots baseball and coach and officials development.
Always a threat at the National Championships, Administrative Director at Baseball Ontario, Mary-Ann Smith points to one main reason for this success.
“Volunteers,” said Smith. “Baseball Ontario has a number of dedicated coaches who work long hours to develop athletes. Without those amazing coaches, we would not have the number amazing athletes that we do.”
The success at the high performance level and producing elite talent that have gone on to play on National Teams or in professional baseball should not be overshadowed by some of the impressive things that Baseball Ontario is doing in other areas of the game.
Where officials are concerned, Baseball Ontario is extremely proud of their Umpire Development Program. The province has seen a significant increase in umpire registration in the past 8 years going from 2,717 certified umpires in 2002 to 3,847 in 2010.
Other provinces have adopted Baseball Ontario’s successful 5-year curriculum for level 1 and 2 umpires, as well as the 3 year cycle for level 3 umpires.
“We have been able to offer developmental programs for umpires at events such as the Ontario Cup Tournament and the bi-annual Ontario Summer Games Tournament,” explained Smith.
Over to the grassroots programs, Winterball is and continues to be strength in the province while Rally Cap is making progress.
“Local Associations that currently use the Rally Cap program have indicated that the program helped increase their registration and enthusiasm since implementation,” noted Smith. “These Associations have been able to adapt the program to their specific needs.”
Baseball Ontario has also been promoting the program through Grassroots Coordinator, Cindy Rossignoli who has been presenting information on both the Rally Cap and Winterball programs to local associations to showcase the merits of both programs.
“The presentation is focused on providing local associations with information on these two initiation programs and highlight that these two programs are great opportunities and resources to help them grow and develop baseball in their areas,” continued Smith. “As a result, some local associations have started contacting and promoting the Winterball Program to schools in their area.”
Speaking of Winterball, the program is still flourishing since its inception back in 2002. Baseball Ontario has passed out nearly 1000 kits since that time and according to Smith the success of the program is a sense of pride for the province.
“We are pleased to be able to introduce our sport to youth who may not otherwise have the chance to try baseball, and we do so through a fun, non-competitive program that focuses on the fundamentals of the sport,” she said.
The feedback from schools using the program has been very positive which in part is due to an instructional DVD that the province developed to provide another resource to help instructors teach the program.
“The reviews from teachers using the program are wonderful as they are thankful for the extra tool (DVD) in helping them deliver the program within their schools,” said Smith.
While there are a lot of positive initiatives and programs happening within Baseball Ontario, the provincial office is working to improve some areas within their system, in particular with member services.
“Baseball Ontario wants to improve member services,” added Smith. “Over the last few years, Baseball Ontario has made great strides to supply our members with useful tools to help with umpiring, classification, tournament, provincial tournament and player registration services. These services are available free of charge for our members through our website at www.baseballontario.com
To help facilitate this initiative, Baseball Ontario has launched an on-line convenor package for the 2011 regular season and all provincial tournaments.
“We will continue to enhance the functionality of this program and it will include a full scheduling module by the fall of 2011 to be implemented in advance of the 2012 season,” said Smith.
Also of note, Baseball Ontario welcomed its newest staff member, Enza Finnie, in early May who will be performing the Administrative Coordinator duties.