Find­ing the right com­bi­na­tion

Base­ball CBN looks to jump­start af­ter de­cline in num­bers

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cb­n­com­

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.

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