"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." #42
  • The Ignition of a Baseball Hotbed

    Brian Westlake has been with Mississauga North Baseball Association since the early 90's. Along with Ron Gotwalt, he has been responsible for coaching in 3 National Championships and groomed players like Chris Leroux to be ready for pro ball.

    These days, Brian has taken on a task equally important to Mississauga North; museum curator. For the past 3 months, Westlake has been digging up the history of Mississauga North which dates back to early days of Streetsville baseball in 1860.

    Along with the history of the organization, Westlake has combed through the records to discover some of the talent that was produced at Mississauga North and continues to flourish at the professional level.

    TODAY'S TALENT

    As players like Leroux and former Mississauga North Tiger, Shawn Hill prove that even a kid from suburban Canada can make it and stay in the big leagues, players like Josh Naylor and Royce Ando are earning their stripes with the Junior National Team.

    Shawn Hill 2 pics

    Ando and Naylor's last year with Mississauga North was in 2012 when they captured the Provincial Championship for the Tigers. Since then, they have also added a 16U Mickey Mantle World Series title to their resume.

    And now, in a few days they will be teammates again as Team Canada plays against some Major League teams at Spring training in Florida.

    TALENT GIVING BACK

    Another dynamic duo for Mississauga North that played on the Junior National Team was AJ and Jordan Wideman. Both brothers were drafted by Major League teams and spent time playing professional baseball as a pitcher and catcher.

    jordan and AJ

    Now that they have retired from the game, the Wideman's have returned to Mississauga and spend time teaching the younger Tigers' players everything they need to know to get to the next level.

    THE IGNITION

    In Daniel Coyle's The Talent Code, the reader will learn how talent blooms have occurred in places like Russia, Brazil and Curacao when someone from a local area has achieved the heights of greatness in the sports.

    Little League baseball in Curacao was forever changed when a bunch of children from the small latin country witness Andruw Jones' dramatic two-homerun game for the Atlanta Braves in the 1996 World Series against the New York Yankees.

    Five years after Jones' famous night, Curacao would qualify for the Little League World Series for only the second time in their nations history. Most of the players on that team signed up after Jones' big night.

    MISSISSAUGA'S IGNITION

    With so much success in the history of Mississauga North baseball, one could argue that the ignition has already occurred. They have multiple players playing in the Major Leagues and two of the best players in the country on their National Team.

    With little public recognition of their success stories, players continued to sign up for baseball and became great.

    But I believe the very best is yet to come. I know that Josh and Royce will achieve greatness on and off the ball field. They will get great scholarship offers and they will be drafted by Major League teams.

    As they reach the pinnacles of the sport and we relay their success to the local kids playing on Mississauga diamonds, an ignition of talent will bloom at the Tigers organization. Through effective coaching techniques and affordable year round training facilities, stars will emerge and the Mississauga burrows of Meadowvale and Streetsville will become common references amongst scouts and recruiters.

    14-year-old Cooper Davis is waiting in the wings with Mississauga North. Soon to be amongst the nations top talent and representing the Tigers on the world stage in the near future.

    Five years from now, my 11 year Major Mosquito team will be the same age as Josh and Royce. With the motivation to train being ignited by the success of guys who hang out with them at The Den, there is no limit to the heights of performance these players will reach.

    IMG_4798

    Mississauga North has always been a major player in the world of baseball. Overshadowed by elite teams who provided players with indoor training and higher levels of competition, the Tigers program became known as a breeding ground for these organizations.

    But the playing field is quickly being leveled. The Den is a world class amateur baseball facility. The coaching is being enhanced with teachers that played collegiate and pro ball. Teams are being formed to compete in the same showcases and circuits that elite teams enter.

    As players achieve higher levels and promote the organization that started them in Tee ball, a hotbed of talent will perpetually emerge from The Den and show the world how a bunch of volunteer Moms and Dads can change a community.

    A day when shout-outs to the Mississauga North Tigers are regular occurrences on baseball broadcasts as seen here.

  • Job 42

    If you're a skeptic, hopefully this post will make you think twice. If you're a believer, prepare to get goosebumps.

    You may have read past entries about how I was inspired to help out more in my community by visiting Jackie Robinson's grave. Jackie's impact on the world would forever be felt even though his mortal body lay beneath the soil in a Brooklyn cemetery.

    Visiting his grave and reading the epitaph that is found at the top of this page, moved my life into a completely new direction. Much of my focus prior to that moment was on producing as much financial gains for myself as possible. I worked hard, made as much money as I could and spent it on a new house, new truck, vacations and setting up a financial future.

    It wasn't until I realized that the legacy that we leave behind is much more important than the things we accumulate. With this realization I began heading down a much more successful path.

    I mentioned in a post called The Gestation Period of Prayer that I said a prayer to Jackie Robinson at his grave and asked him to guide me to make positive impacts.

    PRAYERS ANSWERED

    The community of Mississauga pulled together and we were able to build the largest not-for-profit indoor baseball complex in Canada.

    The hope of creating affordable, equal training opportunities for grassroots players is happening. The wish to create a space for people of all abilities, races, creeds and cultures to coexist in a positive environment is being fulfilled.

    If I've learned anything along the way, it is that man is only able to accomplish what God graces him to do.

    The Ghost of Jackie Robinson

    IMG_4455

    I'm not saying this is like Field of Dreams and that Jackie Robinson walks through the walls of The Den every night and plays some shadow ball with Satchel and Josh. But some sort of spiritual interaction is going on.

    To pay homage to the inspiration behind The Den, we painted a 42 above the outfield wall. However, that isn't the only place it keeps showing up.

    IMG_4456

    In order to volunteer my time to run the indoor complex, the Mississauga North Baseball Association granted me office space at The Den to run my own personal business. When I moved from my North York office, I needed a new photo copier. I ordered one online and when it was delivered, I noticed the sticker on the front of the machine telling how fast it photocopied.

    IMG_4453

    We ordered recycled lockers for players to keep their equipment in. We offer afterschool memberships and it is easier for the parents and players if they can keep their glove, change of clothes and bat at The Den.

    When the lockers arrived, the numbers were scattered between 74 - 320. Except for one. The first one unloaded off the truck.

    To help promote The Den and all of the programs we run, I was invited to a talk show for the local cable channel ROGERS TV. Nina Hallie Dixon, the host of the show invited me after meeting us at a local outreach event promoting baseball in the community. At the event, I told her about how I was inspired by Jackie Robinson and she thought it would be a perfect story for her show In The Loop.

    IMG_4422

    When I arrived at the studio, I signed in at the security desk and they gave me a Visitors badge to wear. Of all the possible badges, the man at the counter had to give me this one.

    Guidance

    In life, we have many decisions and its tough to know which ones are right. We follow our passions but sometimes our own egos can blind us from heading down the right path.

    I feel comfort in knowing that many people are using The Den and receive countless compliments about how the place makes them feel.

    I feel proud to have accomplished such an incredible project with the help of a few key people.

    I feel blessed to be given the ability to visualize, act and realize.

    Though we will never be able to fully comprehend the spiritual realm, I believe that faith is more powerful than knowledge.

    Just as Jackie had faith in himself to be a symbol of strength during a weak point in American society, I have faith that God, through Jackie has empowered my visions and ideals.

    For as Job stated to God in Chapter 42,

    “I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted"

  • The Message Inside The Ball

    75 coaches circled the batting cage at The Den on Sunday to watch one of Canada's most powerful hitters, Brock Kjeldgaard drive the ball straight into the back of the net.

    "If you want to get your hitters to achieve at the next level, they next to be able to get inside an inside pitch and drive it to the big part of the field." Adam Stern said as he placed another ball on the tee for Brock.

    cfs team

    The team from Centrefield Sports consisting of owner Adam Stern, Chris Robinson, Brock Kjeldgaard, Jeff Helps and Adam Arnold were joined by Tempus Performance owner and strength coach Costa Kladianos to teach the Mississauga coaches how to optimally develop their players.

    IMG_4764

    After the day, both new and experienced coaches of Mississauga North commented on the quality of instruction they received.

    The Tigers coaches are strictly volunteers and gave up their entire Sunday afternoon to improve themselves for the betterment of their local community.

    Much of the instruction revolved around a basic principle; progression. The same applies to a four-year-old beginner and a pro working out during the offseason.

    Growing the game of baseball in Canada is my highest priority. It has become my personal mission and understanding that a thought is the first step towards a dream achieved, I'm willing to put forth all efforts to grow baseball to a level never before seen in Canada.

    Partnering with Adam Stern and the guys from Centrefield Sports has been an inspiring reminder that Canadian baseball is why we are doing it; period!

    "Sure we are from London", Stern said addressing the Mississauga coaches, "but we aren't in this to make London players good. We're in this for Canadians."

    Following the session I summarized the clinic and reminded the coaches that what we do goes far beyond baseball. We aren't just development ballplayers, we are developing men. If we remember that, we will realize that the successes we will have won't be determined by how many Major Leaguers we produce, but by how many kids will grow up to play catch with their children, coach their team, help with the local association and build a strong community.

    Chris Robinson echoed my comments stating, "I didn't make the big leagues because of my big league coaches. I made it because my Dad started playing with me and coached my team with some of the other Dads."

    IMG_4748

    The importance of the community baseball system and their coaches are often overlooked by elite level teams that have been fortunate to choose players that have already played the game for 10 years.

    A reciprocated approach to development is the only system that will transform our nation into a country of ballplayers.

    When every school visits their local indoor baseball complex (And that is soon coming) it will be imperative for all levels of baseball systems in this country to invest their time and effort towards the grassroots.

    Though Brock and Adam highlighted the importance of hitting inside the ball during Sunday's clinic, I believe the more important message was stated through the partnership that was formed between elite and community level baseball.

    If we stay inside the baseball and let the individual politics remain outside our system of development, we will soon achieve what many have dreamed about for generations.

    MNBA and CFS Instructors

  • Baseball Partnerships in Ontario

    The largest privately owned and largest community owned indoor baseball complexes in Canada are partnering to educate coaches in Mississauga.

    Centrefield Sports based in London, Ontario is Canada's most advanced training centre. Owned by former Major Leaguer and Team Canada hero Adam Stern, Centrefield is over 45,000 square feet with state-of-the-art batting cages, strength and conditioning area and fully enclosed infield.

    cfs

    Walking into the fielding area is awe-inspiring for any baseball lover and is a main reason that it houses over 3000 athletes from local grassroots to Major League pros.

    Though the place looks great and it houses all of the modern equipment, it's the people operating inside Centrefield that make it a first class facility.

    The Den based in Mississauga, Ontario is Canada's largest not-for-profit baseball facility in Canada. Owned and oeprated by members of the Mississauga North Baseball Association, the 16,000 sq complex is set-up similar to Centrefield Sports with a third less space.

    Den - Field

    Most people who enter The Den are impressed by its bright, warm atmosphere which makes it a perfect place for children to learn to play and coaches to learn to coach.

    On February 9th, 2014, Centrefield Sports and The Den will join forces to conduct a Exclusive Coaching Clinic for over 75 members of the Mississauga North Rep coaching staffs.

    adam-stern

    Coaches from Centrefield will head up the 401 highway to impart their knowledge and experience that has been attained through their careers.

    Adam Stern and Chris Robinson will relay messages they learned by being part of Team Canada and playing in the Minor and Major Leagues.

    Jeff Helps will give some fielding advice that helped him to become an Allstar shortstop in the Can Am league.

    Brock Kjeldgaard will give some hitting tips that helped him lead the 'AA' Southern League in homeruns and RBI.

    chris-robinson

    Adam Arnold, newly appointed manager of the Great Lake Canadians, will help coaches learn the finer details of pitching.

    The partnership was formed to further Mississauga North's desire to build the strongest coaching staff in Ontario.

    As part of their strategic plan to provide players of all skill levels and ages with the highest degree of training, Mississauga North sought out Centrefield Sports after witnessing the incredible things they were doing in London.

    After watching Chris Robinson work his instructing magic at this year's Toronto Blue Jays National Coaching Clinic, action was taken to get him and the other instructors of Centrefield up to Mississauga.

    Mississauga North is putting a priority on coaching. The Den hosts multiple NCCP training courses every weekend. Even with the heightened standards that Baseball Ontario imposed on coaches in the province, Mississauga North encourages its coaches to take more courses than are required and pays for all training.

    At the grassroots level, Mississauga North has implemented standard training requirements for all coaches starting in the 2014 season. A standard that has them receive an entry level NCCP Initiation course as well as attend 3 iCOACH (On field practical courses) during the winter.

    The infrastructure is in place. The standards are set. The partnerships are formed. It is now up to the local volunteers to take the resources afforded to them and develop their players with the same passion that will bestowed upon them on Sunday.

  • The Joy of Making Contact

    In partnership with Community Living Mississauga, adult players with cognitive and physical disabilities train and play ball at The Den every Tuesday from 6-8pm.

    This partnership is a small part of the large impact we are hoping to make on the community with the assistance of the Ontario Trillium grant we received last year.

    The half dozen players that are part of the program are the best players in a league that consists of 90 players altogether.

    IMG_4700

    Though their swings may need some work and catching a ball creates some difficulties, the love of the game is felt to the very core of these gentlemen.

    "I love baseball", Naser says as he walks up to me at second base. His large frame and ability to hit the ball instantly gets him the nickname Big Papi.

    The first day they arrived I told Kevin that he wins best expression for seeing The Den. As he walked through the Hall of Fame and saw the field through the windows, he bellowed out a "Oh Yeah!" for all to hear.

    The team from Community Living revealed their high baseball IQ right away as Mike chatted with me at third base.

    "So they got rid of JP eh? Good decision." he said with a smirk.

    We separate the program into 1 hour of learning to hit in the batting cages and a 1 hour game on our field.

    Members of my 11U Tigers team join me to assist them with hitting and play together during the game.

    "He's a good coach", Jay says about 11 year old Benny.

    "I love playing with these guys", says Evan. Evan is a top athlete in the 11U division. "They make baseball so much fun."

    Evan and JP

    As people come and go from The Den, they instantly comment on how great it is to see their smiling faces and their love for the game.

    This week we introduced the pitching machine into the hitting lessons. After hitting off the tee, each player had an opportunity to face the 40mph pitch from the machine.

    I could see it in their eyes. They loved having the opportunity to face the challenge.

    For some, their swing mechanics aren't quite right yet. They had some trouble keeping their feet still and making contact.

    For others like Naser and Jay, who I call the 3,4 hitters, the machine was easy to conquer.

    And then there was Matt. He was eager to get in and challenge the machine. His first round didn't go so well missing every pitch.

    His determination never wavered. On his second round and the third pitch he made contact and fouled the ball into the roof of the cage.

    With a fist pump and a resounding YES, Matt achieved his goal and proved to himself and to everyone watching that given the opportunity, he can make contact.

    And that's it. Getting the opportunity.

    Tuesdays are my new favourite day of the week. Community Living has given me the opportunity to be a part of something special. Not special because I get to help disabled people. Special because I get to witness the able spirit and joy that each of them has for the game that I hold so dear to my heart.

    Community Living Team

  • Creating Endless Possibilities to Improve

    Mississauga North Baseball Association has a long and successful history of baseball in Canada. In fact, the earliest documented game saw the Union Club of Streetsville defeat Brampton 70-9 (Brampton Times July 3rd, 1868).

    Streetsville Thistles Baseball team, c1910

    There have been changes of names from Thistles to Tigers and expansion of geographical boundaries, but the constant through the years has been the tradition of excellence.

    At this year's Baseball Canada Awards banquet, MLB catcher and lifetime Team Canada member, Chris Robinson commented, "Yeah I remember playing the Tigers growing up, you guys kicked our butts."

    Chris along with Adam Stern and the rest of the gang at Centrefield Sports in London, Ontario have done a great job to ensure that there will be no more butt-kicking, but Mississauga North is still striving for excellence with their new facility, The Den.

    With a vision to provide an optimal training space from the 4 year old beginner to the Major League athlete, The Den is designed to make every player enjoy "the grind".

    PROVIDING A SPACE FOR LIFE

    One of the missions at The Den is to grow our athletes, help them achieve the next level and provide a space for them to continue to train after they have hung up their Tigers jersey.

    Recently, Toronto Blue Jays prospect Dalton Pompey and Team Canada Junior National player Royce Ando stopped by The Den to check it out.

    Pompey is a 21 year old outfielder who is looking to move up to the Dunedin Blue Jays this year. Ando is the Ontario Blue Jays shortstop heading to Dunedin this spring with Team Canada.

    Both players attended John Fraser Secondary School and spent their youth wearing the Mississauga North pinstripes.

    "To have a place like The Den creates endless possibilities to improve", said Ando. "When we were young we crammed into small gyms and were really limited to what we could work on. With all of the cages, 60 foot infield, and workout area, you can get all of your work in under one roof.

    Pompey echoed the sentiment. "Growing up we had to use the batting cages at Playdium. This place offers a huge benefit to players because they can work on all areas of their game with lots of space and comfort."

    When asked if The Den would be good enough for an elite level baseball player, Dalton's answer was a resounding "I'll use it !"

    "With the clay mounds and fielding area, you can use the space like a real game."

    Both players recognized that the Canadian disadvantage is our environment. Players down south have the benefit of getting in more real game opportunities.

    The Den provides a space for players to simulate game like situations. By using The Den, Canadian players can gain an advantage over the snowy winters.

    GIVING BACK TO COMMUNITY BASEBALL

    "I remember growing up and not knowing about too many Canadians that were drafted.", Pompey remarked. "When I saw a guy that got drafted and recognized that I could be just like him, it motivated me to try and make it a possibility."

    "I want to offer that for Mississauga North.", Pompey continued. "If I work out at The Den, I can set an example for the younger players that they aren't much different than me. If they go through the work and practice hard, they can be the next Mississauga boy to be drafted."

    When Royce was asked why he has spent the last 3 years volunteering to help grassroots players he replied, "I feel its important to give back to the organization that gave me an opportunity to play. From a personal standpoint it helps me to build communication and leadership skills that are sure to help me in all areas of my life."

    Royce and Pompey

    Before Ando and Pompey left, they both hit some balls off the tee in the cage. In a snapshot that embodies the mission we have at The Den, the players had a chance to exchange advice and tips on improving their game.

    Alongside their cage was a few 11 year old players just beginning their journey of excellence at The Den.

    "It's important for players to come to practice with a goal they want to accomplish. If they set goals, they will maximize their workout and improve dramatically.", Ando said.

    Pompey continued, "The Den provides everything for them. Everything except doing the work. If they do the work, they will get better here,"

    Both players are an example of what we can grow all across this country. Once again, it goes beyond baseball. It's about a 16 and 21 year old having goals and living to fulfill their dreams. It's about having hope and providing hope for the next generation.

    The Den can provide them everything baseball. But it also provides them an avenue to become better people and share their disciplined lifestyle with rest of their community.

    The Den can provide the space, but they are doing the work.

    Team with Royce and Pompey

  • The Den - A Memoir

    Its been a couple of months since I had a moment to collect my thoughts and punch them through the keyboard on my computer.

    I've told the story about the inspiration, vision and execution of Mississauga North's indoor complex to so many people that I'm almost loathe to write about it for fear of it being too repetitive.

    People keep telling me to write a book about the events that have lead to where we are now and where we intend to go.

    My wife encapsulated my struggle to be an author by giving me the title of my first book "I Don't Have Time To Write A Book".

    In case you aren't one of the contractors, coaches, players or strangers that I've told this story to, here is a brief history of what's going on with my life and Mississauga North Baseball Association.

    THE INSPIRATION

    In 2011, I took my family on a road trip to see Fenway, Yankee Stadium and Cooperstown. Two magical moments occurred. We witnessed Derek Jeter smash his 3000th hit over our heads and I made a spiritual pact with Jackie Robinson at his grave in Brooklyn.

    An account of both events can be read in my July 2011 entry of BATS BLOG.

    Here is an excerpt from that entry:

    Our drive to New York had us stop off in Brooklyn to visit the burial site of my favourite player; Jackie Robinson.

    It is my belief that Jackie Robinson is not only the most important figure in baseball but in modern American culture as well.

    Without Jackie Robinson, there is no Martin Luther King and there certainly is no Barrack Obama.

    In 1947, when Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play in the major leagues, he narrowed the gap of segregation and began to shift the minds of white America.

    He began his career as black man but ended it as a ball player. Through his great play on the field and his class, courage and determination Jackie Robinson played the most instrumental role in revealing the truth that "All men are created equal".

    Personally, stopping by his grave was the highlight of the trip. Even more so than Jeter's 3000th hit.

    This great man of American history was now no more than a slab of concrete in a tucked away corner of Brooklyn. As I stand there and read the epitaph on his gravestone, the words that I have used as a motto to live my life by, I realize the urgency in their meaning.

    "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives"

    Eventually we will all be that slab of concrete in the corner or ashes floating away down a stream. What impact will we have on this world? What impact am I having on my children and my community? What can I do immediately to make my life more important.

    We brought a ball that we caught at Rogers Centre during a Blue Jays and Astros game. We signed the ball with the inscription "We will always strive to make an impact". We left the ball on his headstone and made our way to Manhattan.

    Pact with Jackie

    THE BEGINNING

    Upon returning to Mississauga, I immediately began looking for ways to contribute. I started up a new charity called Beyond Baseball Foundation with a plan to raise money for charitable organizations through baseball.

    We planned an event to raise money for Autism Ontario which never got off the ground... yet.

    Of all the effort to build a website and create a plan for Beyond Baseball, a simple question by the then President of Mississauga North Baseball, Dave Dundas, was more instrumental than all.

    "Mike, would you like to take on a role as Manager of Player and Coach Development for Mississauga North?"

    Would I? That was it. That was the moment that my life began moving into a new passionate direction. A moment where I could use my love of the game to impact the lives of children and families in my community.

    Mr. Dundas soon stepped down as President and was replaced by now President, Bert Dagnon. But before he left, he played an important role in what is happening at Mississauga North. Would I have eventually joined the board? Would someone else stepped up and volunteered thousands of hours in the role? Who knows? But his act to extend his hand to an eager Rep coach was the very thing I needed to lead me down my current path.

    The MNBA Executive

    I had never served on a Board of Directors. Being the President of a small employment agency didn't afford me the knowledge of due processes and executive etiquette.

    I came in guns blazing and wanted to change everything I didn't like about baseball development as fast as possible.

    Many of the elder members didn't react well to my eagerness and frankly I probably could have been a little more diplomatic. But you have to remember, all I was thinking about is making the most impact I could on the game as fast as possible.

    I wasn't concerned about making friends or fulfilling the desire to do things "the way we used to".

    With the appointment of interim President Bert Dagnon, I had a fierce partner for fast and effective change.

    Bert is a no nonsense type of personality and though he comes off very abrasive to people (and he'll be the first to tell you he does) he does have a key trait for his position... He gets stuff done.

    In what seems like no time, he was instrumental in securing a new home field complex at Meadowvale Sports Park (was used by MNBA in the past), created a Snack Bar at the field, partnered with me to build our first pilot facility, facilitated a successful application for an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant and secured a lease for our long-term facility next to our new home field complex.

    In what would have literally took a decade, we got done in just over a year!

    The Den

    Through the efforts of a dozen volunteers including one of the most amazing tradesmen you will ever meet, Ivan Curic, we quickly put together a 6500 sq ft facility and offered training for our grassroots and rep teams for the 2013 winter.

    It was a success and was instrumental in providing an opportunity for a larger, long term facility.

    So now, after 2 months of work, volunteering, meetings, labour, negotiating, buying and selling, The Den opened its doors January 2nd and Mississauga North has its very own training centre for at least 5 years.

    Before and After

    But this isn't just your run of the mill training centre. That's not how people like Ivan Curic and Bert Dagnon operate.

    With a 60 ft base infield sandwiched between a mural of outfield and homeplate painted spectators, The Den is more like a surreal baseball fantasy than a cold and gloomy work out place.

    With bright walls, bright lights and a batting cage system that can retract with the use of 1 finger, The Den is proudly one of the greatest places built for baseball in this country.

    If you want to grow the game, you need to get kids to love it. After only a few days open, it is plainly evident that we hit the mark with exceptional feedback from players, parents and coaches.

    Teams from outside of Mississauga have chosen The Den for their winter training as well.

    Tee Work

    There is no denying it. The moment you step foot inside the main entrance and look down the red carpeted Hall of Fame, you know that love for the game and love for the community have transformed a cold warehouse into a baseball lovers winter wonderland.








    Up Next

    There are 3 things that baseball associations need to grow the game.

    1) Outdoor fields
    2) Indoor complex
    3) Coaching

    With the completion of The Den, Mississauga North has access to Canada's best indoor and outdoor facilities.

    With these facilities, we can attract and train quality coaches that will take Mississauga North to a level unparalleled in the country. A place where thousands of children will be introduced to baseball for the first time. A place where skilled players will get scholarship and professional opportunities for an affordable cost to their families.

    I'd love to show you The Den and tell you how you can make this work in your community. Who knows, maybe you'll have a magical moment where the words above our parents mezzanine will speak to you as profoundly as did to me a few years ago.

    Message from Jackie

  • Winter Baseball Clinics in Mississauga

    If you build it AGAIN... MORE will come

    Last year Mississauga North Baseball Association (MNBA) piloted a project to convert a small warehouse into an indoor training centre. WATCH VIDEO

    Batting off tee

    Members of the association worked thousands of volunteer hours to change a dark and dusty auto parts facility into a bright and innovative baseball destination.

    Rep teams had their very own home to train. House league players worked with the best equipment and experienced some of the best training in their life.

    Most baseball associations in Ontario use school gymnasiums or private training facilities for their winter training.

    Mississauga North made a home for their members. They made a place for hundreds of children to make new friends and stay active all winter long. AND YOU HAVEN'T SEEN ANYTHING YET !

    NEW TIGERS DEN

    The pilot project was such a huge success. The winter clinics received amazing feedback. It was time to grow.

    Opening January 2, 2014, Mississauga North will be opening their new TIGERS DEN at 7275 Rapistan Court in Mississauga.

    More than doubling last year's space at 14,000 sq. ft., the new facility can serve hundreds of more children and offer dozens of new programs.

    From first-time players to elite level talent, the TIGERS DEN will offer something for everyone.

    Programs are already open for grassroots programs every Saturday. Programs are for boys and girls ages 4-18. Plans are also under way to fly in professional hitting and pitching coaches from Major League teams.

    If you are already a MNBA member, you can go to the registration site and register now. Otherwise visit www.mnbatigers.net/register, create a profile, add your child and register for a program. Times and rates are available on the registration site.

    See the ad below for more details. I'll see you out there in a few months. Make sure you come up and say HI !

    Winter Ad

  • The Ambassador of 42

    "Put it down. Write it down in big letters. I'm not going down like this."

    After tearing his right ACL in May 2012 while shagging routine flyballs, that is how Mariano Rivera answered the concern that his career would end so abruptly.

    16 months later, Rivera would be finishing up his farewell tour as the best closer in MLB history. Eventually going down in a style that may never be paralleled.

    Mo

    His numbers and accolades are indisputable. He holds the MLB record with 652 saves. 13 time All-star, ALCS MVP and World Series MVP to go along with his 5 Championship titles.

    Mo was simply the best pitcher at the turn of the century and beyond.

    When Major League Baseball retired 42 across the league in 1997, Rivera and a few others were able to continue wearing the number per a grandfather clause.

    Could there have been a better person left to wear the legendary number?

    The Last Tour

    As Rivera made his final tour as a player during the 2013 season, he felt it was important to thank each person in baseball that made his career possible. Not the president and general managers, but the people who opened up the ballpark everyday, made the fan's experience possible, cleaned and closed it every night.

    Traveling through Minnesota, Kansas and Toronto Rivera would take the time to take a picture with all the ballpark employees and thank them for the job they did.

    twin-rivera-chair-2

    At every stop, the teams would honour his last visit with an unique gift and a donation to the Mariano Rivera Foundation.

    Minnesota may have won the "best gift" competition by giving Mariano a rocking chair made of broken bats that Rivera personally damaged with his trademark cutter.

    There were special moments like at the All-star game when Rivera warmed up on the field alone in the 8th inning. All the players remained in the dugout and left him to bask in the spotlight.

    After a tumultuous career against the Boston Red Sox, Mariano leaves his mark permanently in the Fenway bullpen inscribing "Last to wear 42; thank you for everything."

    On September 26th, Mariano would make his last trot to the mound at Yankee Stadium with late announcer Bob Sheppard's voice and Metallica's Enter Sandman blaring through the loudspeakers.

    Derek-Jeter-J.R.-Murphy-Andy-Pettitte-Mariano-Rivera

    In typical Yankee lore, Rivera was pulled from the game with one out remaining. It was his decades long teammates Petite and Jeter who would retrieve him from the hill.

    In a moment that would be sent directly to the historical archives, Rivera emotionally embraces Petite for nearly a minute before making his way to the dugout.

    OFF THE FIELD

    After receiving a "born-again" experience at the age of 21, Rivera has been as instrumental off the field as he has closing out games.

    He has spent his time and money funding start-up churches, elementary schools in his native Panama and contributing in many ways to his community of New York and Central America.

    Mariano has exemplified what a professional athlete can be. Though he may not have had to blaze a path that Jackie Robinson did in the 40's, Mariano has worn the number 42 with integrity and truly makes the highest degree of impacts on other lives.

    THE AMBASSADOR OF 42

    Jackie Robinson is revered by many historians as the integral part of the Civil Rights movement. Being the first black major league player and dealing with the violent resistance in a courageous and moral way is what turned people's hearts away from ignorance and towards the concept of the equality of man.

    42.jackie-robinson2

    Jackie's struggle and the plight of his race have become symbolic in the number 42.

    As the next generation of baseball fans come to the ballparks across America and see 42 hanging somewhere in those stadiums, they will learn who he was and what he stood for.

    They'll watch the movie they made about him and they'll see all players wearing 42 on Jackie Robinson Day.

    But they'll never get to associate the meaning of 42 with a live person. They'll never see him speak on his day. They'll never get to see how he is living his message now.

    Mariano Rivera embodies that. Loved by his peers and his fans, Mo would be a perfect spokesman for the late Jackie Robinson.

    42 is not just a jersey number. It is the symbol of hope. It is the essence of genuine faith. It is the belief that though centuries of injustice could pass, all you need is one day to turn it all around.

    So on that day of April 15th, let us pass that message along to young fans through a living voice. Let us celebrate the greatest 42 with the last man that could ever rightly wear that number. .

  • Tournament 12 Pays Dividends

    Less than 24 hours after Maritime Grey clinched the inaugural Tournament 12 Championship, the dividends of the 5 day showcase had already begun paying out.

    Brampton's Darren Shred and Mississauga's Royce Ando received their calls to be part of the Team Canada Junior National Team.

    Ando Shred

    These are 2 immediate examples of how Tournament 12 will affect dozens of players that attended the Blue Jays Academy event.

    In front of over 20 Major League scouts and representatives from many US colleges, top Canadian players from Newfoundland to BC got a chance to display their talent.

    For some of them like 20 year old Andrew Case, the opportunity to be seen is all they needed. No longer one of the young prospects, the chance to put his talent on display could get him an invite to some Major League camps. He made the best of his opportunity by pitching a no-hitter in the semi-final game against Quebec White.

    For others like Cooper Davis, the young Major Bantam Mississauga North Tiger, it was time to put himself on the map. That he did by displaying his blazing speed, intelligence of the game and humble confidence to hang with the big boys.

    GOLDFISH GROW THE SIZE OF THEIR BOWL

    For 250 players, their fishbowl was Rogers Centre from September 20-24. Apart from being seen, the opportunity to hang out and play at a Major League stadium encouraged these players. Their 10 year old dreams on a dusty field were replaced with a big league strut under the domed roof of the Blue Jays home.

    They hit with a big league batter's eye. They fielded a big league hop. They pitched from a big league mound. They slid onto a big league plate.

    Any players fortunate enough to be invited to this tournament improved. Whether they hit a homerun or struck out, they knew they were part of a select few athletes that represented the best in our nation.

    These players were given an opportunity to grow. They were surrounded with teammates that forced them to focus more intently and pitted against opposition that made them compete fiercer.

    THE GODFATHER OF CANADIAN BASEBALL

    Each day started at 8am and finished near 10pm for four days in a row. For each of those games, Roberto Alomar sat beside the 3rd base dugout to take in the action.

    Occasionally he would call out to a player and ask them to come over. They would sit beside him and listen to his words of wisdom. Wisdom that undoubtedly was imparted onto him by the man sitting beside the 1st base dugout, Sandy Alomar, his father.

    I witnessed Tristan Clarke sitting beside Robbie for along time during the semi-final game. His family in the stands overlooking giddily.

    In this context, Tournament 12 host, Robbie Alomar was indeed the Godfather of Canadian Baseball. He was surrounded by tireless troopers Lloyd Moseby, Devon White and Duane Ward. The four of them along with Robbie's Dad gave insightful council to the player's in attendance.

    We are so fortunate to have Major League alumni in this country who are willing to give back to the nation that welcomed them so passionately.

    They continue to impress me at every event. Rance Mulliniks's sage-like advice on hitting at last year's Coaching Clinic. Jesse Barfield's genuine desire to search out and tell a Dad what his son needs to work on during this summer's Super Camp. These former players have been given a structure to teach and they aren't disappointing.

    INSPIRATION FOR COACHES

    For me, Tournament 12 was an inspiration. My first team practice following the event was smooth, fun and productive. My own son remarked afterwards that it felt like a Major League practice.

    My players are 10. After seeing what opportunities may lie ahead over the next 4-5 years for them, it is my duty and my passion to lead them to the waters that will nourish them.

    Knowing the Blue Jays Academy and their relentless effort to grow baseball in Canada, I'm positive that Tournament 12 will become one of the "must see" events for scouts and recruiters. Apart from Canadian players, the event will lure highly touted talent from other countries and elevate the exposure for our players to a whole new level.

    Rep coaches across this country should be inspired that we are more than just playing a game. We are building lives. We are opening doors. We are giving our youth the same opportunities that the kids in Texas and California have had for decades.

    Something about baseball just simply appeals to us. We talk about the adversity and character it builds. We talk about how our children will become greater men by playing the game.

    But the truth is, we're not coaching so they can be good in Men's League. We invest all our time because we believe in them. We see their possibility.

    Be inspired by the fact that there is a door open for them. Gone are the days when they will have to pay pricey fees for showcases all across the United States. Tournament 12 will grow and become a venue for them to showcase their talent at home.

    Get out there. Motivate them. Teach them. Guide them. For in a few years it won't be the Shreds and Andos getting the call. It will be your catcher or your shortstop. All your work will pay off and baseball will never cease to be a part of your player's lives.

Check out some of my YOUTUBE videos below
Recent comments

more comments…

Footer:

The content of this website belongs to a private person, blog.ca is not responsible for the content of this website.