OTTAWA – Across the country, provincial associations are implementing the Rally Cap program in their local Minor Associations to replace the younger levels such as Tee-ball, Rookie and even Mosquito. In Prince Edward Island, they have taken it a step further.
As a pilot project this past season, Baseball PEI decided to scrap the Provincial Championship at the Mosquito A level and implemented in its place a Rally Cap jamboree.
“We were looking for a way to increase the participation in our Rally Cap,” says Baseball PEI Executive Director Kelsey McIntosh. “We also wanted to remove the focus on winning and put it back into the fun of the game at that age group.”
The previous format in PEI saw teams entering a provincial championship tournament with a guarantee of playing three games before entering a playoff which led to the eventual championship game. In the new jamboree format, teams still play three games, but instead of playoffs they enter a skills day which includes Rally Cap testing.
At the end of the day, each kid left with a trophy, a Rally Cap hat and a new found love for the game of baseball.
“One parent said that her son liked baseball, but that the jamboree put it over the top,” says McIntosh. “She said her son even missed the first day of hockey tryouts to come to this. You don’t get that in PEI kids skipping hockey for baseball.”
The event was so successful that local associations who opted out of the pilot event have signed up for next season.
McIntosh adds that part of the success of the event was the high calibre coaches who attended for the skills day, such as Baseball PEI Technical Director Desi Doyle who is also an assistant coach for the province’s Canada Games team.
The benefits that these kids receive have created an added interest from teams at the higher levels of the Mosquito division.
“I’ve got Mosquito AAA teams asking me why they can’t get those coaches to come to their field for their own day. So they’re the envy of some other teams within their own association. When the focus is often given to the AAA teams, now they’re seeing that this ‘house league’ is getting all these benefits. That’s not always the case in baseball.”
That type of response has even gotten the provincial association to investigate the possibility of expanding the event to the higher levels.
At the end of the day, Baseball PEI has changed its focus for the lower age groups from winning to having fun and bringing kids back year after year.
McIntosh even challenges the other provincial associations to implement similar style jamborees in place of provincial championships for the lower age groups.
“At the age of 8, 9, 10, should the focus be on winning a provincial championship or should the focus be on winning the kids back for next year?”
“No kids get left behind. The coaches use a rotation to make sure every kid is involved evenly. Of course they all want to win, but in the end if you win or lose the focus was on the day.”
Baseball PEI is now in the process of creating a Rally Cap league for its younger age groups. The idea is to have Rally Cap as the developmental program for 5 to 9 year olds.
“We expect to have 16 teams signed up for Rally Cap next season up from eight. When kids sign up at that age, Rally Cap is their introductory to baseball.”