As Saskatoon’s minor baseball season is about to get underway you can expect to see more kids hitting the fields, with around 2,000 kids registered to play this season.
“Five years ago, we were about 800. So we’ve seen the numbers really explode in Saskatoon. Which is really great for our organization. We’re very excited about the number of kids playing baseball,” said John Povhe, president of the Saskatoon Baseball Council.
“Also we’ve got an all-girls baseball zone that we didn’t have five years ago that has 250 players.”
The increase is being driven by more kids joining at a younger age.
“What we’ve seen is explosive growth for the kids that are under 10 years old, in our junior rally cap and senior rally cap age groups and into mosquito and that’s pushing the numbers. We’ve sustained high numbers from those very young categories.”
There are several reasons behind the increase, one being the MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays.
“The Blue Jays success on the field has driven more players to baseball, a lot more kids are watching the game, are excited to see a Canadian team have their success,” Povhe said.
“I think it plays a great role in kids wanting to join and play baseball. I think they see the success, we hear about more Canadian kids having success in the major leagues and they see that there’s potential for them to play the game.”
It was a reason for Myles Cannam, who has been playing baseball for two years.
“Well, I’ve watched baseball on TV and I decided I wanted to play.”
And for Beckett Gust, 8, one of his favourite players comes from the Jays.
“My favourite player on the Blue Jays is Kevin Pillar.”
And his favourite move from Pillar is the “sliding catches.”
Another reason for higher registration numbers is higher quality of fields, according to Povhe.
“We’ve also put a big investment into our diamonds in Saskatoon as well, even if we do get rain, we’re not seeing the delays or cancellations we had in the past, so we’re doing a much better job of our infrastructure.”
Plus they are looking at improving existing fields to allow for more games.
“We’re talking about doing some work on the higher age groups, to put lights on diamonds, so that we can accommodate doubleheaders to make sure that when these numbers of kids get moving through that we’ve got the facilities all for them to play baseball on,” Povhe said.
However, it’s more than just baseball for the young athletes though, it’s also about making friends.
“They’re really nice, now they’re actually kind of some of my best friends and we actually work really good together,” Gust said.
With more kids wanting to join, more coaches are needed, however that hasn’t been a problem.
“We’re finding that people are stepping up to help out,” Povhe said.
“It’s just a great group of people that want to see the game be advanced and everyone’s putting their shoulder into it and pushing it forward. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of.”