A Special Thank You to the Boys

May 1, 2006

Tavistock, ON



 On Saturday April 29, the catch phrases "for the love of the game" and "if you build it, they will come" were never more evident than on a tiny ball field in the village of Tavistock, Ontario. Sixty plus screaming and laughing young ball players, boys and girls ages 7 - 14, came together for a Skills and Player Development Day. It was the third such event that we have hosted in Tavistock and it was a tremendous success.

 In 2002, as the then president of our local minor ball association, I decided that I wanted to create some ways of raising awareness of our great game in our area in order to get more children on the ball field. It had to be special, unique and spectacular. It had to peak the interest of children and hold their attention for an entire day. It was literally months of planning and preparation the first time around to create the perfect mould. A day of FUN, but also a day of quality instruction and learning. With the help of our local executive, an itinery was set for an 8:00am to 4:00pm day of fastpitch fun. A pitcher/catcher clinic for beginners followed by two skills sessions before lunch,two skills sessions after lunch and an exciting skills competition during the lunch break. Dividing the children into four groups to cover four skills stations throughout the day seemed the logical layout to give everyone a little taste of each aspect of the game. Hitting, Bunting and Baserunning, Outfield Skills and Infield Skills with 45 minute sessions at each to keep things moving and prevent boredom. Have you ever tried to keep an eight year old interested in something for 8 hours?? It takes planning.

 The next task, which I assumed would be the most difficult, was to convince enough good people to assist and instruct with this endeavour. I was never more wrong. I completely underestimated the character and quality of the people involved in the great sport of fastpitch. I simply dialed the phone or sent the email and they came. Great coaches and players alike, to instruct a group of children for an entire day with no vested interest other than the love of the game and giving something back.
 The 2006 version of our Skills Clinic was nothing short of spectacular. I sent out the s.o.s. via email and no less than a dozen of my teammates from the Kitchener Hallman Twins and the Sebrinville Sting came parading into Tavistock from various areas of the province to help and instruct. Guys came from as far away as Stouffville, Brooklin, Smithville, driving hundreds of kilometres to instruct a group of young ball players that they didn't even know. These guys came and didn't just help. They ran the day like professionals and made every kid in the place love them for it. By the end of the day I heard young children calling these guys by their nicknames and chatting it up with them like they were long time buddies. At 8:00am that morning, most of these children didn't know any of these guys. Unbelievable and rewarding is all I can say. I watched Bill Simmons, Evan Boyd, Paul Koert, and Grant Baechler compete in the baserunning event as the kids cheered them on by name. I watched Dale Levy wack balls off a tee with a sore back because a bunch of 8 year old boys wanted to see him "hit it". I watched every one of "my boys" suck it up for 8 hours and never let on once how tired, sun burned and sore they were getting because they never once just "went through the motions". They put on a show for these kids for the entire day. It was truly a special event.

 With each passing year, I question myself more and more as to how I can justify the time I spend playing fastball each summer. I have a wonderful wife and family, a business, and many other "grown up" committments in my life that sometimes go unattended to during the ball season. My conscience tells me that maybe its time to "grow up" and stop playing a kids game. Then an experience happens like this clinic and it all becomes crystal clear. As time moves on, the game of fastball becomes less and less about the competitions and results and more about the people you spend your summers with. I can't speak about other teams but I can speak about the Kitchener Hallman Twins and the Sebringville Sting. These guys are not just teammates. They're friends and family. Not only the guys but their wives, girlfriends and kids are all apart of our wonderful fastpitch family. If anyone is curious as to what attracts great ball players to play for the Hallman Twins or the Sebringville Sting, they would have only had to give a Saturday of their time to see it first hand.

 To Si, PK, Boydy, Baechs, Red, Shack, Crawfy, Ace, Stewy, Melon, JD and Scotty, you're all the top of the heap. Thanks for making this fastball day in Tavistock something that our young players will remember and cherish. For one day, we all made a difference. A sincere and heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you.
 Also, a very special THANK YOU to my wife Kate for everything that she did to help prepare for the big day. She was the clinic typist, emailer, phone caller, errand runner and all round everything. I couldn't have pulled it off without her support and terrific assistance.

 Dave Bailey
 Tavistock Minor Ball
 Kitchener Hallman Twins
 Sebringville Sting