MP Minor Baseball outlines big hopes for coming year

     Brian Hunt is fired up. The president of Mount Pearl Minor Baseball has pieced together a roster of big plans for the association in the coming year. He’s also celebrating after teams from the club won a record six medals this season, including four gold, at provincial tournaments.
     Hunt is hoping a series of coinciding events – especially the provincial election and the Blue Jays streak toward the World Series – will coalesce to boost the growth of baseball in the region.
     The last time the Jays went deep into the post season, in 1992, he said, membership in baseball associations in St. John’s and Mount Pearl nearly doubled. Hunt is in talks with the Blue Jays to have the major league club hold training camps for young ball players here next summer.
     The association is already growing and improving competitively. Mount Pearl won the Peewee AAA in Corner Brook and came fourth in the nationals, the Mosquito AAA team won the provincial gold in St. John’s, the Mosquito A team won all three tournaments they played this summer and the Bantam AA squad won gold for the second year in a row. That tournament was hosted in Mount Pearl. The club’s Under 12 Girls team won the silver medal at the provincial tournament, which they hosted. And a Peewee A team won a silver medal in Grand Falls. “It was an awesome year,” said Hunt.
     He is hoping to see the success continue this weekend when the Mosquito AAA team plays in Dieppe, New Brunswick and the Bantam AA plays at the Baseball Atlantics in St. John’s.
Last year, Mount Pearl Minor Baseball teams won two gold medals provincially. Before that the last time the association won gold was in 2007.
     Hunt attributes the improvement in performance to efforts to professionalize the association and instill a sense of pride in the players. That includes using major league replica jerseys and hats imported from the United States for house league players to wear during games and to keep afterwards.
     “Eight years ago we decided to brand the league, so ‘Mount Pearl Minor Baseball’ is on everything,” Hunt added. “We bought all new All Star uniforms.”
     Another strategy has been to reach out to other baseball associations in the province to build relationships, Hunt said.
     “As that progressed, our (registration) numbers started rising,” Hunt said. “Once our numbers started rising, we started to get the athletic kids into the system. Once we get the athletic kids into the system, it’s only a matter of coaching those kids to get them to the next level.”
     Mount Pearl Minor Baseball is attracting top athletes from other sports including hockey and soccer, Hunt said. He hopes to make the Mount Pearl ‘Blazers’ as synonymous with provincial baseball as the Corner Brook ‘Barons’ and St. John’s ‘Caps.’
     Hunt said the association is selective about who it appoints as coaches. The 400 player club has about 80 coaches and volunteers.
     “The big thing is getting the numbers… If you build it, it will come,” Hunt said.
The Blue Jays organization has not yet committed to holding development camps in Mount Pearl but is awaiting a formal proposal, said Hunt, who has been talking with Roberto and Sandy Alomar.
     Another major plank in his ‘Strategic Plan’ is to establish a Challenger Program for disabled children to play baseball. “That’s a big thing,” said Hunt. “A lot of government money comes with that.”
     The Paradise baseball association already has a Challenger program, Hunt said, but it has only 14 or 15 children and they are playing on fields that have not been specially fitted with asphalt between the bases to properly accommodate wheelchairs.
     A major feature of the plan is the building of a new club house for Mount Pearl Minor Baseball. “We need a place where the kids can gather,” Hunt said. “That’s a big piece of the puzzle.”
     He estimates the cost at some $400,000. Hunt is hoping the Challenger field and wheelchair accessible clubhouse can be located next to the new field under development at St. Peter’s Junior High.
     St. Peter’s field is a major part of the club’s future plans and will be the home base for all house league play for peewee aged players and younger. The handful of other fields, including Smallwood, Squires, Team Gushue and Greenwood fields, will be well used too. The club has reached an agreement to take over the scheduling and maintenance responsibilities at the Smallwood pitch next season.
     Hunt is also hoping to organize a provincial Pony League next season to offer players who might otherwise not find a game anywhere else once they reach their late teens and early 20s.
The Mount Pearl club is also applying to host Baseball Canada’s Eastern National Peewee Championships next summer. That would bring some 2,500 baseball players, coaches and family members to the city.
     Hunt has compiled a list of requests to improve the fields throughout Mount Pearl, which he intends to present to city council’s Community Services Committee. “Most of what I’m looking for from the City is repairs to existing facilities,” he said. “Anything else, I figure we can get government funding along with our own funding, the Jays helping out, that kind of thing.”
Hunt figures the Blue Jays camps could add some $150,000 to the association, money that could be used for the club house.
     “The biggest thing we want the City to do is to get a mortgage for us (for the club house), because we can’t get one ourselves,” Hunt said. “We’ll pay it off.”
Hunt is hoping to drawn together the parts of the master plan in tandem. Like play in baseball itself, timing is everything. The leverage for funding that could be provided by a provincial election, obtaining a commitment from the Blue Jays at a time when they are making an historic run to the playoffs, and getting the City onside to invest in the various baseball facilities is akin to having the bases loaded.
     “This is why I’m trying to do everything the one time here,” said Hunt. “Now’s the time… We’ve got to jump on this while the iron is hot and make something happen.”

Posted on September 17, 2015 .