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Baseball Canada Recognizes its Best at Convention

TORONTO – Baseball Canada presented its annual awards at the 2008 Fall Convention, recognizing some of the hardest working people in the sport.

This year, the MLB Volunteer of the Year Award goes to Geoff Hughes (Saskatchewan). The Lionel Ruhr Coach of the Year recipient is Mark Noel (New Brunswick), while the Dick Willis Memorial Umpire Award winner is Derrick Dubell (Manitoba). Ashley Stephenson (Ontario) is the Women’s National Team MVP, Kate Psota (Ontario) is the winner of the Jimmy Rattlesnake Award and finally, Province of the Year is awarded to the province of Manitoba.

MLB Volunteer of the Year: Geoff Hughes
Geoff Hughes first became involved in minor baseball in 1983 as an assistant coach for his son’s Mosquito team and he has been involved ever since. In 1988, he began is long administrative association with Saskatchewan Pee Wee Baseball where he has held the positions of Treasurer, Vice-President and President over the years.

Geoff felt his greatest contribution was to help steer the construction of the present Pee Wee Park in Saskatoon through its planning process and approval by the City of Saskatoon. This three-diamond, city-owned baseball facility has been named the Geoff Hughes Baseball Complex in recognition of his efforts in obtaining the new park.

In addition to the recognition received by naming the Pee Wee Park after him, he was also awarded the Investors Group Volunteer Sports Administrator Award in 2005 and was inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.

Lionel Ruhr Coach of the Year: Mark Noel
Mark Noel started his coaching career in 1996 when he joined the Chatham Ironmen program in New Brunswick as the Head Coach of the Bantam AAA team. In this capacity his team won the 1997 provincial tournament and represented the province at the Bantam National Championship in North Bay, Ontario.

In 2000 he joined the Ironmen Midget AAA team as assistant coach and subsequently took over as Head Coach the following year. Under his guidance, his team represented New Brunswick at the Midget National Championship in 2002, 2003 and 2005, culminating with a silver medal at the 2005 championship in Trois Rivières, Québec.

In 2006 he joined the New Brunswick Canada Cup program as an assistant coach, and later became Head Coach of the New Brunswick Selects in 2007. Since joining the program, the team has finished fourth, fifth and third respectively – resulting in a promotion to Pool A for 2009. His bronze medal team in 2008 was the first New Brunswick team ever to medal at the Baseball Canada Cup.

Mark believes strongly in the benefit of continuing to improve his skills through NCCP training and is a full Level 3 coach. This year he participated in the pilots for the MultiSport theory modules for Competition-Development and he is now starting his level 4 tasks. Similarly he displays the leadership desired for high performance coaches as he has now returned to contributing at the grassroots level. He is now an assistant coach for the Ironmen Mosquito AAA team where he coaches his son.

Dick Willis Memorial Umpire Award: Derrick Dubell
In a relatively short 18 year umpiring career, Derrick Dubell has officiated many provincial and Western Canada championships, along with 11 National Championships.

As this Winnipeg native’s own playing career began to wane, he started umpiring in 1990 and within four seasons had earned his Level 4 status and his first national assignment, the Baseball Canada Bantam Championships in Kelowna, BC.

He hones his skills locally by doing extensive games in the Manitoba Junior League, the Winnipeg Senior League and the Northern League of Professional Baseball. This past season he was recognized by the Northern League as he was assigned a spot in the Annual All-Star Game. This past season also saw Derrick experience his first International assignment as he was afforded the opportunity to umpire at the World Junior Championships in Edmonton, Alberta. He umpired nine games in that tournament, including the prestigious plate assignment for the gold medal game.

On top of his accomplishments, Derrick has also been serving the last several years as an Umpire Clinician for Baseball Manitoba, teaching the Level 1, 2 and 3 clinics and assisting at Level 4 clinics. Along with his teaching duties, he also evaluates up and coming officials during league play and has supervised several provincial championships.

Women’s National Team MVP: Ashley Stephenson
Ashley Stephenson receives the Women’s National Team Most Valuable Player Award for the second time after winning the prize in 2005. A member of the National Team since its inception in 2004, Ashley has dominated most offensive categories in her three appearances at the Women’s World Cup tournament.

During the most recent World Cup in Matsuyama, Japan this past August, Ashley completed the tournament with a .625 batting average while driving in nine runs and finishing first in the category of stolen bases. Ashley was also a major contributor in the victory over the defending world champions, the United States, with a solid performance on the mound. Selected to the 2008 International All-Star team, she is a logical choice for this award.

Jimmy Rattlesnake Award: Kate Psota
The Jimmy Rattlesnake Award is presented for the first time to an athlete who is a member of the Women’s National Team. Kate Psota is the first female winner of the award, which is given to an athlete for their on-field accomplishments, as well as their team spirit and leadership. Kate has been a member of the Women’s National team since 2004 and is the ideal teammate which every team looks for.

A strong competitor, Kate is among the cream of the crop of pitchers on the international stage, all-while being one of the most feared hitters on the planet. Always making herself available to her teammates, she also stands out by her involvement in team activities. Without a doubt, the name Kate Psota is synonymous with this award.

Province of the Year: Manitoba
Manitoba is awarded the Province of the Year for the fifth time and it’s first since 1999. The province was a force in governance and program development this past year, finishing first in both categories.

In other developmental categories, Manitoba placed second in coaching and fourth in officials’ development. Finally, the association placed fourth in player registration in a year that saw every province showing a slight increase in registration numbers.