Tales from the Doug-Out: June 2nd, 2020
June is here already and before we know it, the longest day of the year will be here and gone. The first month of the minor ball season is over. Oh, haha guess you missed it! Not funny, I know. Let’s hope the whole season is not a write off. But until we do get some live action… It’s back into the time machine we go for another episode of Tales from the Doug Out Chapter Two. We will take you to the spring of 1994.
I thought at the time, as did a lot of my friends, that my son Jordan should be playing summer hockey. How else are you going to make it into the NHL? He had been invited along with about 60 other kids to the Northern Alberta All Stars for a tryout. For three weekends early Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m. we got up and traveled to Edmonton to play hockey. He made the first cut no problem. The second week he was selected to the top 25. On the third weekend on the way into the city he asked me, “Are we going to be doing this every Saturday all summer?” and I replied excited “Yes for sure!” I didn’t think he played very well that day but didn’t have a clue why. On the drive back home after he was cut I asked if he was disappointed and he said, “No, I never wanted to play summer hockey anyway. I want to play baseball.” Little did I know how that would change my future.
The Blue Jays had just won back to back World Series in 1992 and 93 . Every kid in Canada wanted to be a ball player like Joe Carter. My son Jordan was in Peewee baseball, now known as U-13. I had been coaching his team in the Lakeland League every year and doing fairly well at it. Winning the Lakeland League in T-Ball and Rookie, losing in the final game for the past years in Mosquitoes. Now we were moving up to Peewee baseball. Oh yeah, U-13 to be politically correct. But the Lakeland Minor Ball League season was only two months long, playing one or two games a week for the month of May and June, That’s it. And only if it didn’t rain. The final tournament was always held on the weekend just before school was out.
Elk Point had three Peewee house league teams at the time. I was coaching one of them, my buddy Dave Yake was coaching a bantam team. He and I started kicking around the idea of entering a provincial team in Bantams. Or now known as U-15. With all the kids playing ball in town we should be able to round up enough players to field a team of Bantams for the month of July. His son Jim was Bantam aged. Jordan was still Peewee aged but had always played with the older kids so. Dave’s other son John was a year younger than Jordan but could be our bat boy or fill in if we were short. So we made a few calls to Baseball Alberta and sent in our money, entering a team in the Baseball Alberta Provincials.
At that time there would have been about 20 teams in Bantam A and about 15 at the AA level. With our population we were entered into the single A. To qualify for the provincial finals you would play three or four games for three weekends in July and the top 8 teams would be entered into provincial finals. The host site was selected months in advance. Regardless of their record they would be in the finals. The other seven teams would be based on your wins and losses and runs for and against if there were ties. We never made the finals that year. In fact, I think we may have only had one win out of nine or ten games. But it was a terrific learning experience as a coach and as a player. Other teams found our weakness. They were much more aggressive on the bases and doing all the little things like bunting that can win you a game.
At the Bantam level not only can you steal bases, but you can lead off. Our pitchers were still not that great at pickoffs usually throwing the ball high and wide. And our infielders were not that great at catching even if the ball is on target. And our catchers have a tough time making the throw to second. So any good coach can really take advantage of this and run the bases like crazy. We had a lot to learn. First of all I needed to learn how to run a practice. And work more on basic skills like throwing and catching. Not just a few pop flie and grounders. Or a game of pick up. But the boys had a ball anyway and we got to travel and camp out all over Alberta. The parents were having fun too.
That year I believe we camped out in Cold Lake and Oyen. We also hosted one of the weekends here a home. That would be my first time getting volunteers to help get the diamond ready, someone to score keep and announce. Someone to float and chalk diamonds. Plus help to run the concession. But we pulled it off with the help of my wife Donna and good friends. That was just the beginning. Looking back now, am I ever happy that Jordan decided that he didn’t want to play summer hockey. Now, twenty five years later and as far as I’m concerned there’s still no better place to be in the summer time than at the ball park!
K.A. Campbell quote of the week. “Failure is a part of success. There is no such thing as a bed of roses all you life . But failure will never stand in the way of success if you learn from it.” – Hank Aaron