Sports

Veteran coach steps away from softball

Dave Clayton volunteered with the Ridge Meadows Minor Softball Association for 26 years.  - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Dave Clayton volunteered with the Ridge Meadows Minor Softball Association for 26 years.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

The Ridge Meadows Minor Softball Association is about to lose a valued veteran. After 26 years of volunteering as a coach and mentor, executive vice-president Dave Clayton is hanging up his cleats.

“It’s time for some new, fresh ideas. It’s time for a younger generation to take over,” Clayton said. “I’ve really enjoyed working with the kids and working with the other executive members. The volunteers are very knowledgeable and efficient, which takes a load of my shoulders. They are the backbone of the association.”

For four years, Clayton has been seeking a replacement worthy of running the RMMSA, and has finally found one – Brian Fewtrell.

“I’ve been working with Brian for a few years now, trying to convince him to take over and he’s finally agreed. He has the right insight and energy levels to continue building a great association,” he said. “Even though I’m retiring, I’ll still be around to help when they need it, to answer questions and be a mentor. My wife Sally is also heavily involved with the association, so we’re not going to completely disappear.”

Clayton’s love affair with ball began at an early age, when he starting playing the game.

When his oldest son turned six, Clayton signed him up to play for the RMMSA.

“My son’s coach was a woman and seemed so overwhelmed with all these little kids running around. She needed some help.”

“I ended up volunteering as an assistant coach ended up sticking around after that.”

Throughout his 26 years as a volunteer, Clayton has been coaching, running clinics for kids, training coaches, managing teams, creating schedules and running managerial duties and says although he loves helping out, he deserves a break.

When Clayton first began volunteering with the RMMSA, the organization was ranked the third largest in the province, now they are the largest minor softball association in B.C.

“I’m still going to keep my eye on things. I don’t want to see all the hard work go down the drain. I’ve seen other associations where they’ve had executive changes and the whole association suffers and quickly falls apart,” he said. “The club has seen higher numbers in the past but the great thing about Maple Ridge is that we’ve constantly got younger families moving into the area because of new housing developments so we’ve still got that younger generation that’s coming in and wanting to play baseball. Other communities like Burnaby don’t have that influx so their associations are smaller.”

Spending 26 years with any association will provide a person with countless memories, some good, some bad and Clayton is no exception.

“I have a million good memories of the RMMSA. There were so many incredible games. I guess the thing that kept me going was knowing how badly they needed somebody to help run things,” he said. “To keep advancing it is what’s important. The thing I’m most proud of is getting new equipment and having a space to hold clinics in besides school gyms. We’ve got the warehouse on River Road. It’s a huge bonus for us. So we’re doing quite well.”

The only negative aspect that really bothers Clayton is Softball B.C.’s regulations regarding elite A team players. All baseball players in B.C. are required to play for the district they live in up until they are selected to play for their district’s A teams, the highest level. Once players are selected to an A team, they are eligible to play for any team they like, regardless of where they live.

“I don’t like to complain, but we’ve been training our kids so well and we always select local community kids to play for our A teams, but other clubs from other communities come around and pick the best two players from every team and create their own team, which we have to play against,” Clayton said. “It’s completely unfair competition. I’m a big believer in communities playing communities and it’s just really frustrating. That’s one of the things that’s really gotten me down.”

“We’ve gone down three A teams this year because we don’t have enough A players left to form our own teams. It’s a rule that Softball B.C. has allowed but it’s destroying the A Division.”

Other than his one complaint, Clayton says baseball in Maple Ridge is doing well and that the association is continuing to produce high calibre players, causing him less stress and allowing him to focus on his next venture.

The retired member of the Vancouver Police Department is now training motorcyclists how to ride. “I do that to keep busy. I’m not trying to grow my business or anything, but I do it from home. I just enjoy riding motorcycles and there was a need for trainers in Maple Ridge, so I jumped on board.”

Even though he’s moving into a new chapter in his life, the avid baseball fan still manages to keep track of his favourite MLB teams, including the Toronto Blue Jays and the Seattle Mariners and promises the RMMSA will always be kept close to his heart.

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