Minor baseball: Progress comes in many forms

By Don Fennell

Published 10:00 PDT, Wed August 15, 2018

John Braaten wears a wide smile as he reflects on the 2018 Richmond City Baseball season.

It’s not quite over yet of course, with Fall Ball on the horizon.

But Braaten’s words “pleasantly rewarding” in describing the success of the traditional summer campaign speaks volumes.

“In respect to our grassroots programming (5U to 13U) we saw gains in registration and continued player retention,” he says. “Changing our programming model a few years ago to place more emphasis on training and six-on-six game play in the 5U to 9U divisions keeps more players active and provides much more opportunities to be part of a game versus the historical nine-on-nine game.”

Braaten is quick to recognize the efforts of director of player development David Van Ostrand, whose focused efforts are already paying obvious dividends from the 7U to 13U divisions.

Pitching is introduced for the first time at the 11U level, after four years of hand-eye and player mechanical instruction. And for the second year in a row, Richmond fielded four teams at this level with all being competitive in summer all-star play. Nearly 45 per cent of the spring registrants participated in summer play within this division alone.

Richmond also continues to place increased focus on coaching instruction through multiple coaches training nights with the assistance of BC Baseball. The provincial body provides international speakers in addition to its annual coaching conference.“Heavy emphasis is put on this as well, given that they are on the front line instructing and mentoring our youth athletes,” says Braaten.

Most important, Braaten continues, is Richmond City Baseball’s ongoing mission to provide an affordable, active and fun environment for its members. The brand is clearly growing, with the association’s free community baseball training reaching more than 2,100 students in the 2017/18 school year at various elementary schools.

“The community supported free winter programs through community centres, are now part of the weekly Minoru summer camps, partnering with lacrosse to expose even more youth to sports they may never have been exposed to previously,” he explains.

While Richmond’s 18U College Prep team had its challenges throughout the year, with non-baseball related injuries prior to the season putting the team in a tough spot, the remaining roster players competed well, pushing Tri-Cities to the limit at the league finals. The team is looking forward to the upcoming Fall Ball season and the 2019 campaign, which will include a pre-season spring training trip to Mazatlan, Mexico led by longtime coach Raul Verde Rios.

“(Richmond City Baseball) is truly proud of our programming and forward vision of growing the sport in Richmond,” Braaten says.

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