Hit, Run, Throw Attracts Regional Champs to Shaw Park
By Scott Taylor
It was a sunny Friday afternoon at Shaw Park in downtown Winnipeg and it would have been very difficult to find a kid anywhere in Manitoba happier than Noah Geekie.
He’d just been announced as a medal winner at the 2011 Baseball Manitoba Hit, Run and Throw competition and he couldn’t wait to get down on the field, high five the coaches and collect his prize.
“The kids are having fun today,” said Baseball Manitoba president Ken Sharpe with a smile. “This has just been an excellent day. We’ll have more than 150 kids compete today. We’re one of the last provinces in the country to continue to run this program and it’s been very successful for us. There were probably more than 1,000 kids competing throughout the province.
“This is just another example of the tremendous introductory programs that are offered by Baseball Manitoba.”
On an absolutely glorious Friday afternoon in downtown Winnipeg, 150 of the best young ballplayers in the province gathered on the vast green outfield to hit, run and throw for All-Manitoba honors.
It was the 18th Hit, Run and Throw Competition in Manitoba -- a province wide baseball skills competition that gets even more popular every year. There are three separate events: running the bases for time, hitting a ball off a tee for distance, and throwing a ball for distance. On Friday, August 12, there were dozens of wonderful performances by some young ballplayers who demonstrated how good the coaching is throughout Manitoba.
The Hit, Run and Throw Competition is designed for boys and girls between 4- and 13-years-of-age. They start out in a series of competitions held at local and regional sites all over Manitoba and the top three Regional finalists in each of the six age categories qualify for the Provincial Finals at Shaw Park.
The entry fee for the HRT competition was $6.00 with $2.00 from every fee remaining with the local baseball host site. Winners at each level received gold, silver and bronze HRT medals.
It was such a tremendous day at the ballpark, that it’s hard to imagine why other provinces have given up on the event.
“This program started out as the Triple A Challenge back in 1994,” said Baseball Manitoba executive director Morgan dePena. “The Hit, Run and Throw Competition was only done by Ontario because the Blue Jays sponsored it. We went to the national meeting and convinced Baseball Canada to do it and they got Honda as the sponsor. But when Honda dropped the sponsorship, some provinces decided not to continue. We’ve kept it going and it’s been a great program for us.”
The kids certainly thought so. The six divisions were Pre-Rookie for 5-6-year-olds, Rookie for 7-8-year-olds, Mosquito for 9-10-year-olds and PeeWee for 11-12-year-olds. The Pre-Rookie and Rookie categories were mixed – both boys and girls – while the older groups, Mosquito and PeeWee, each had a male and female division.
No matter the youngster’s age, there was no shortage of enthusiasm.
“We have so many great programs like this for kids that it’s helped us maintain our participation levels here in Manitoba,” said Sharpe, who hails from Minnedosa. “It’s tough to keep kids playing. They get older, they find girls, cars and jobs and they stop playing. And as players get older, it’s tough for them to stay involved because as there are fewer teams at the older age levels, you have to be a very good player in order to make a team and keep playing.
“We also have a problem keeping girls involved. There is a belief in this province that once a girl turns 12 she has to play softball. People didn’t know until a couple of years ago that our national women’s team is No. 2 in the world. There is a young woman on that team, Kate Psota from Ontario who is the third fastest-throwing woman ever recorded on the radar gun. We have some great female players in Canada and yet, far too often, girls give up baseball for softball.
“That’s why these types of entry level programs are great for us. We get to bring our top young players together and let them talk baseball, teach them something about the game and get them enthusiastic about playing. The girls playing here today all have a lot of skill and they love the game. We just need to have them keep playing baseball when they get older.”
While competition and participation are a big part of the Hit, Run and Throw Competition, they aren’t the only things. It was also plenty of fun just getting out onto the field at Shaw Park and it was obviously a thrill for the kids to have Winnipeg Goldeyes’ stars Isaac Hess and Ridge Carpenter show up to watch the kids play and sign autographs.
“Just standing on the field at Shaw Park was as big a deal as competing,” Sharpe said with a smile. “And having the Goldeyes come and sign autographs was just huge for these kids.
“All in all, it’s a great program and it was a great day.”
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