Finding the right combination
Baseball CBN looks to jumpstart after decline in numbers
The last big baseball surge province can be traced to 1993.
Coincidentally, that was the season the Toronto Blue Jays captured their secondstraight World Series title and ignited baseball fever in this province.
Associations sprung up in centres like Clarenville, Carbonear and Harbour Grace. A couple years later, the game was being played in earnest on fields in Bay Roberts, Spaniard’s Bay and Upper Island Cove.
That was then, and now Baseball CBN — which is made up of the former local organizations — is looking again to take advantage of the Blue Jays’ successes this summer.
That’s what happened 22 years ago, so there is no reason to think couldn’t happen again. That was the sentiment at the Baseball NL AGM a couple of weeks ago, and it is the thought amongst Baseball CBN brass.
“We’re trying to ride on the coattails of the Blue Jays,” said Baseball CBN president Scott Mercer. “With the Jays doing so well, we could see a surge.”
If you go by the numbers, it was a down year for Baseball CBN. In 2014, the organization had a total of 270 athletes registered and on fields in the region. A year later, that number dropped to just over 100.
Those numbers weren’t unexpected said Mercer. Heading into the summer, he
this felt the same interest that drove numbers into the 200s wasn’t there for whatever reasons.
Maybe it has to do with the outside perception of the game. It can be seen as boring and with only nine players getting on the field at a time, parents are more inclined to put their kids in soccer where they can see immediate results.
“I believe there is a way (to bring people back),” said Mercer. “We have to find the right combination.”
The weather, or lack thereof, didn’t help matters. A horrific July hampered the program in areas, especially the house league program. The combination There is no magic formula for attracting new players to a different game.
The best place to start, feels Mercer, is to get into schools where baseball hasn’t been a driving force in recent years. Places like Carbonear and Bay Roberts are tops on his list in that respect.
“If we can get into those schools, run a program in the community and show them the game of baseball,” he said. “Hopefully, we can grab new kids.”
This approach to expand to different communities may get a lift from new lights being installed at the field in Island Cove.
This allows the association to plan programs into the evening, and gives them more time slots to work with. This could make the sport more appealing to parents who want their children to play ball but can’t get the time to bring them because of the slim window they had, as the summer grew longer.
“Having the lights, it allows us to run practices after supper,” said Mercer. “Every kid wants to play under the lights.”
Despite the drop in numbers, Mercer saw the season as a success. He pointed to a strong showing in tournaments by all teams. The program’s mosquito AA team made an appearance at the Atlantic tournament.
There was also the success of the web- site, which garnered over 6,000 hits this summer. The hope is to expand this to include stats in hopes of creating a buzz around the game.
“Keeping kids is the biggest thing,” said Mercer. “Some people see baseball as a slow game but that isn’t the case. The big goal is to expand and get the program to a certain level.
“We have to get away from the old way of thinking.”
Baseball CBN is hoping attract more athletes to the game next summer.