By Andrew Mitchell
The communities of Pemberton and Mt. Currie have never had any real organized little league baseball before, but that hasn’t stopped the newly created Pemberton Valley Little League Association from thinking big.
Starting next spring, league organizers will be setting the foundations for what they hope will become one of the top programs in the province. Before the first pitch is thrown, however, the league is working to ensure that the players will benefit from the best coaching and management available.
This weekend the PVLLA will host Al Herback and Al Price from the Little League Education Program, the leading instructors in North American for the past three decades.
“What we’re trying to do in Pemberton is to build a ball program among the best in the province,” said league coordinator John Burleson. “Is it going to happen in the first year? Probably not, but we do have a three-year plan and that’s to host a major national tournament in Pemberton by 2010 and compete in it.”
Proper coaching will be important from the start, as will be a strong commitment from players and the community. The league is also in the process of upgrading local ball fields to a higher standard with outfield fencing, proper dugouts, proper grass and dirt, and more. Fields at the community centre will remain primarily for slow pitch, but there will be regulation diamonds at Signal Hill Elementary School and in Mt. Currie.
“We’re not asking for money, we’ve got our own liability insurance,” explained Burleson. “We just want to renovate the (Signal Hill) field and make it into a legitimate ballpark.”
According to Burleson, little league baseball is in decline in the Sea to Sky corridor. In Whistler the baseball program only goes up to age 12, while the PVLLA is hoping to have teams for kids aged 5 to 18. The Squamish League is also rebuilding after losing an organizer, and does not offer programs for all ages. To boost their rosters the Pemberton teams will accept older kids from the corridor that don’t have a local team to join.
The Pemberton teams will play other teams throughout District Five, which includes North Vancouver and West Vancouver. That means a lot of travel at times, but Burleson says he has the support of parents and the community. As well, facing better teams will help bring local players up to a higher level.
“There are a few kids there that are going to be superstars in a couple of years with the right coaching,” said Burleson.
Also, Pemberton has been invited to participate in tournaments in the Kamloops region, which has over 40 little league teams.
The goal, says Burleson, is to use baseball to mould youth.
“The goal we have is not just for kids to play baseball, we’re molding them for life,” said Burleson. “We’re teaching courage, loyalty, teamwork, and giving kids something to do as they get older. There’s no ball program at the high school, freshman through senior year… the only sports we offer are dragon boating, soccer, or basketball, and basketball isn’t where it should be at the high school level.”
All current and future little league coaches in the corridor are encouraged to attend the two day “Al and Al” clinic this weekend.
The Saturday, Sept. 23 clinic gets underway at Signal Hill Elementary School with registration at 8 a.m. The morning session will run from 8:30 a.m. to noon, and the afternoon session from 12:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.
On Sunday, registration is at 11:45 a.m., followed by a session from 12:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Weather permitting there will also be a ball game from 5:15 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
The cost is $25 for both days. Concession will be available for parents to buy lunch, and all participants are asked to bring a ball glove, bat and hat.
The goal is to spend as much time on the ball diamond as possible, but in the event of rain the clinics will move inside the Signal Hill gym.
Pre-registration, and more information on the PVLLA, is available at www.pvllbaseball.com.