Vancouver Canadians hit a home run with youth baseball league
The easy thing would have been to write a cheque and be done with it. And that’s what the co-owner of the Vancouver Canadians baseball team, Jeff Mooney, was planning to do when he was looking for a way to give back to the community and provide children with the opportunity to get in the game. But it didn’t take Mooney long to realize there was a better option than simply coming up with some cash and letting someone else look after the details.
With a dedicated crew of baseball professionals on his staff and the world-famous Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium at his disposal, Mooney—who cochairs the Vancouver Canadians Baseball Foundation—came to the conclusion that if anyone was going to give young people a baseball experience they’d never forget, it should be the Cs themselves.
So the Canadians partnered with the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Coast B.C. to create their own mini league, which runs for seven weeks this summer. It will bring together 300 children between the ages of six and 11—many of whom have never swung a bat—and introduce them to the game of baseball.
“Originally, our intention was to raise some money, but this was a way for us to connect with a group that was really skilled, experienced, and responsible in terms of how these kids would be treated,” Mooney tells the Georgia Straight by telephone when asked about the partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs. “Creating our own league gives us the capacity to control the experience for these children. We profoundly believe in the power of team sports and the impact it can have on their future in terms of what it can teach about showing up, taking responsibility, learning how to win and lose well, cooperation and competitiveness—all those things that serve you well throughout life. We wanted to be sure that these kids get a positive experience, and this gave us full control instead of just giving money and hoping the children got good exposure to team sport.”
As Mooney and the Canadians organization put the wheels in motion to get the mini league off the ground, they were surprised to discover they were blazing a trail for professional baseball franchises, major- and minor-league alike.
As hard as it is to believe, the Cs are the first pro organization in North America to oversee their own youth baseball league.
“With the majors and the 160-plus minor-league teams out there, we’re the first to undertake a baseball league of this type,” Mooney explains. “That was something we learned. We knew we were doing something that hadn’t been done a lot, but we didn’t realize no one else had done it yet. And if we can make this work, our plan is to take the model to organized baseball and say, ‘Hey, gang; here’s a way to make a real difference in your community.’ ”
Making a difference is the whole goal of the Cs’ mini league. Not only does Mooney hope the kids will learn a thing or two about fielding grounders and running the bases, he also wants to stress the importance of learning lessons that can help them in the game of life.
And that’s why the other—probably more important—component of the mini league is the mentoring the children will receive from Canadians staff, league coaches, and the many volunteers required to make the program a success.
“We want to make it a really positive developmental experience for all of these kids, and doing it ourselves gives us that chance to really do it and learn how to do it better,” Mooney says. “We want to surround these children with positive role models and mentors. The more successful, caring people they’re exposed to, the more we’ll get to our objectives.”
To add to the mini league experience, the Canadians Foundation will ensure that each participating child receives a glove, a batting helmet, and an equipment bag of their own to keep. They’ll also get a meal during each of the games at Nat Bailey Stadium.
“We are so thrilled to have a partner like the Vancouver Canadians and the Canadians Foundation, because they are going to do so much for these children,” Carolyn Tuckwell, president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Coast B.C., tells the Straight in a telephone interview. “A true partnership is when two groups with complementary skills come together with a desire to help. The Canadians don’t just have the resources but have the best skills possible to help these children learn to play baseball.”
Tuckwell says that with many parents working two or three jobs to provide for their children, it’s more than just cost that prevents many from getting their children in organized athletics—many simply don’t have the time.
And that’s where the Boys and Girls Clubs and the Cs have come together to turn a powerful double play that will give these children exposure to team sports and the chance to learn valuable life lessons from people who truly want to help.
“The mentorship from caring adults who have a genuinely healthy interest in these kids is incredible,” Tuckwell says. “And for the children to hear personal stories about challenges and how to overcome them from someone who has sparked a relationship with them—someone like a baseball coach or a volunteer—is so important.”
With the creation of the Canadians Foundation mini league, it’s clear there will be plenty of victories at Nat Bailey Stadium this summer—the kinds of results that can’t be found in a box score. These ones are far more important than that.