Image credit: Baseball Alberta.
A major part of Bonnyville Minor Baseball took home an impressive honour.
Jim Church was named the national Grass Roots Coach of the Year award for his contributions to baseball in Bonnyville.
“It was humbling just to be nominated,” he said.
“There was so many great people that could win the award and such. Weren’t nervous, we had been to banquets before. The boys had won some scholarships and some player of the year awards and so we had been there in the past. It was a good evening.”
Church was one of two Bonnyville residents to receive accolades as Dawn McMillan won the AA Off Field Manager of the Year Award at the Baseball Alberta awards.
‘It’s catching steam’
His coaching career began in 2001 when joined Bonnyville Minor Ball after being the equipment manager.
Now he says he’s proud to be part of a growing baseball scene in the Lakeland, which has steady enrollment increases of 10 per cent or higher each year.
In fact, Bonnyville Minor Ball is hoping to offer more AA programs and a AAA peewee team.
“There was a small core group of people keeping it alive and we have a really great executive right now. It’s catching steam and rolling along. It’s a great group of people,” said Church.
“I’ve been blessed enough to have my wife coach behind me so now we can talk about everything. ‘What do you think happened on that play? What happened on that issue?’ You can see where a game got away for you sometimes or you start to roll against another team. We get to banter back and forth about these things.”
‘Every year has highlights’
In 2013, the Team Alberta won Provincials under his guidance, after a silver medal performance in Acme the year before.
That team won twice in extra innings, won the next two by one run and then “shellshocked” Camrose with six straight doubles for a 12-6 victory.
“For a small town, Bonnyville, we were able to keep a midget AA team in Tier I for 10 years, which is the top eight teams in the province. We’re holding our own against the St. Albert’s, Sherwood Park’s, Spruce Grove’s, the city teams. I took pleasure into having a run and beating them,” said Church.
“There are so many highlights. The less athletic or skilled players that have grown over three or four years to become so much more than what they started with or the nervous kid who’s on the mound in the gold medal game and he’s settled into a routine where he didn’t start playing ball until bantam but has some speed…every year has highlights that as a coach I’ll be talking about for many, many years.”
Church has also been added as the assistant director of Zone 7 in Baseball Alberta, working alongside Doug Bassett from Elk Point.