No sport celebrates its opening day quite like baseball. There’s just something about the sound of the crack of the bat, a fastball snapping inside the catcher’s mitt, and the chatter from the dugout that make baseball’s opening day an event like no other.
Saturday, April 11 marks the start of the 60th season for the Ridge Meadows Minor Baseball Association, and for more than 700 kids in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, the spring officially gets underway with the first pitch.
Cornelius Temple, president of RMMBA, said there’s something about the game he just can’t get out of his system.
“I always say this is my favourite time of the year. I guess I’m just an old baseball fan.”
As the new season gets underway, with about 66 teams suiting up under the RMMBA name, Temple said baseball is growing again after a few lean years. He said he feels the sport experienced a dip simply because there is a tremendous amount of competing sports out there.
“And rightfully so, kids have so much more choice today than back in my day.”
But Temple and the rest of the RMMBA executive believe they’ve put a strong program in place, building a solid foundation to help improve the state of the baseball locally.
“Our goal is to grow the game at the grass roots level,” he said. “That’s important for us because you can’t compete at the higher levels if you aren’t bringing in new talent and exposing them to the game.”
To do that he said the goal isn’t about immediate success, but rather on building better baseball players by giving them a wide range of tools to succeed, he said.
He said the RMMBA done a good job at bringing off-season development to the kids who want to improve their game and play at a higher level.
“We pay a lot of attention to our younger players. We are trying to provide our players with a strong coaching staff and as many development opportunities as we can. We are not an association that’s focused on winning. We think winning is a byproduct of player development.”
An example is its Friday Night Lights clinics during the spring season. The idea is to have a relaxed and non-pressure environment for tadpole- and mosquito-level players to have fun and just play the game without having to worry about winning and losing.
Other examples include winter clinics for more advanced players and providing more resources online for players, like pitching practice plans.
“We have begun to build our competitive programs in such a way that we are focusing on the kids who really do want to make sport a fundamental part of what they do after they leave high school,” said Temple. “So we are developing programs that not only develop kids in sports, but we tie those programs back to physical literacy, and tie them back to the importance of staying in school.”
He said by doing a better job of showing the more interested and competitive kids how to maintain and achieve their goals through baseball, the program is bound to improve.
He said there are plenty of opportunities to stay in the have a career in baseball once your playing days are over.
“Not many kids make it to the major leagues, but who knows, maybe that effort that we put into it will help them to find good career opportunities in the area of sport and help them stay fit and active,” said Temple.