Swinging for the fences

OPENING CEREMONIES from the 2011 National Bantam Championships.

Hosting national baseball championships for the fifth year is still a daunting task

It’s the fifth year Vaughan has hosted a National Baseball Championships, and it doesn’t get any easier.

For Vaughan Vikings Baseball Association president, Dirk Drieberg, it’s an honour to organize an event that brings all of Canada to his city.

But economic uncertainties have caused some discomfort like bursitis in a pitcher’s throwing arm.

“The challenge always is being a not-for-profit organization and given the economic times we live in, we’re always trying to get sponsorship and finding financial support to make sure we can pull it off and at minimal break even,” Drieberg said. “The first couple of years we did lose some money on it. It’s part of the learning curve.”

For 2010 and ’11, the Vikings had a Trillium grant from the province, which helped.

There is hope in the president’s voice that before the five-day baseball extravaganza, corporate sponsors will chip in to help kids hit the diamonds, considering the hard work put in by the community through its volunteers.

“I think our reputation and the success that we have enjoyed in hosting the last four events spoke volumes and are a testament to all those involved,” he said. “It really is a team effort because we have an army of volunteers, parents, coaches, players, grandparents and siblings who come out to help.

“But also we’re very lucky to have the support of council. They’ve been very supportive of it from the get-go.”

This will be the fourth year The Place to Be plays host to the bantam level. Back in 2008, the Vikings hosted the peewee nationals.

With over 500 people involved, including rosters of 18 players, four coaches, parents, officials and Baseball Canada representatives, there’s a lot of work. And after half a decade of experience, Drieberg admits the administrative side has become a well-oiled machine.

A TEAM ONTARIO member takes a swing at a pitch during the 2011 National Bantam Championships.

“A lot of it is because we’ve gone through the growing pains,” he said. “We’ve got all the paperwork done, all of the organizational stuff done.

“Each year we try to make it better because we learn from the prior years, but we try to make sure we do it better.”

Eleven teams, including the host Vaughan, will vie for Canadian hardball supremacy.
Last season, Vaughan put the games online via live streaming, so families of teams for Quebec, British Columbia and the Maritime provinces could follow their kin on the field.

Other finer details, like naming a team MVP and creating an all-star squad at the end have added to the major league feel of the tournament.

“It’s all those personal added touches that go towards making a great experience,” Drieberg said. “When (the players) are a little bit older and they’re my age, hopefully they’ll look back. It doesn’t matter if they make it a college career, minor league career or they make it to the major leagues.

“The 99 percent that don’t make it, they look back and say, ‘Wow, what an experience it was to play at the Nationals in Vaughan’.”

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