Nanaimo minor baseball really hit the big leagues this past season, so to speak.
The Nanaimo Minor Baseball Association was announced as Baseball B.C.’s Association of the Year for 2016.
“We’ve been good partners with B.C. Baseball, so maybe our profile in the province has gone up a bit with some of the provincials and other things that we’ve hosted,” said Mike Holyk, president of the Nanaimo association.
The NMBA was awarded Jays Care Foundation funding for field lighting this year, hosted Baseball Hall of Fame member Roberto Alomar and others for a fundraising event, put on bantam AAA provincial championships and other tourneys, and made improvements to Robins Park.
“It’s nice to host some tournaments. They went very well, the community embraced them, great facilities, great support from the city and the recreation department…” Holyk said. “And we have a wonderful board who doesn’t just want to do something, they really want to do it right and really make the event a memorable experience for all the kids and parents.”
The association’s flagship team, the U18 Nanaimo Buccaneers, made it all the way to national championships and Holyk said that squad’s success came partly due to long-term development of players.
“You probably had to start with 40 or 50 players when they were five, six years old to end up with 12-13 ballplayers of that calibre,” Holyk said. “A big part of what we do is just keep them involved in the game. They physically mature and learn the skills so by the time they get to 16, 17, 18, that can manifest itself on the field.”
Holyk mentioned the association is also proud of its three female players who represented the province at Canadian championships this past summer.
“To keep them excited about baseball long enough so that if they have the desire or the ability they can play on a national stage is neat,” he said.
Holyk said moving forward, the association is continuing to work on the field lighting project and is working toward improvements at Sid Clark Gyro Park. Nanaimo minor baseball is also planning a Vancouver Island coaching conference in the new year.
Baseball B.C. is comprised of 53 associations totalling nearly 17,000 players.