Although it may not seem apparent, the city of St. Catharines is a significant destination in the world of sports. Besides the well established and storied teams that call the city home such as the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL, the Niagara River Lions of the NBL of Canada, the Niagara College Knights and the Brock Badgers, the city hosts sporting events of notoriety quite frequently. The annual Henley Regatta, the women’s hockey world championship in 2015 as well as the Scottie’s Tournament of Hearts are just a few examples of the times when the world turns to St. Catharines for sports.
One organization which supports St. Catharines’ tradition of community involvement in sports is the St. Catharines Minor Baseball Association (SCMBA). This organization was formed in 1963 when several smaller leagues amalgamated. The Brock Press sat down with the Vice President of the house league program and development, Alex Elwell, to learn more about the SCMBA.
“Our mission as an organization is to ensure that every registered player and their family has a safe and fun environment to enjoy the game of baseball. We want to keep in mind the development of our players but the bottom line is fun for the whole family,” said Elwell.
Elwell himself is a local who began working with the organization as a coach in 2013. The Niagara College alumni is extremely proud to report that the league provides opportunities to play organized baseball for any members of the community between the ages of three and 23. The large league is broken down into several different divisions based on age as well as skill. For example, the league has a travel team, the St. Catharines Cobras, who are comprised of all-stars. This team typically travels to Niagara Falls, Welland, Pelham, Beamsville, Thorald, Binbrook and sometimes south of the border for tournaments.
As of now there is no existing connection between Brock University and the SCMBA but Elwell hopes that will change in the near future.
“We would like to be involved with Brock more. We know the sports management or kinesiology students have the potential to make a big contribution to our organization. I could see them step up and assume a role to teach our coaches and players. We have it in our hands, it’s right there, we can do this and it would be beneficial for everyone,” said Elwell. In addition to providing coaching and mentoring experiences for Brock students the organization has also conceived of getting Brock students to run nutrition as well as healthy active living workshops for their players.
For Brock students who are remaining in St. Catharines over the summer and want to play baseball or umpire minor league games, the SCMBA can provide these opportunities. Registration ranges from $80 to $190 for a 14 game schedule which are played at diamonds throughout the city.
“No disrespect to the city but as we’re growing in numbers we are getting close to putting caps on our divisions because of [the] limited number of fields available to us. It’s becoming a tug of war to prove we need more fields or they need to be fixed up. Getting more support from city would help our business,” said Elwell.
Indeed, the organization has experienced immense growth in recent years as their registration grew 30 per cent last year and 15 per cent this year. The SCMBA projects 550 to 600 registrations for this upcoming season. The growth is another reason why the organization is looking for more umpires and can provide seven days of work per week for qualified individuals.
“Organized sports in the community are so important because it brings people together where they otherwise would have been kept apart. It engages our kids and gets them to be active,” said Elwell. This league is also important because of the multiple community outreach projects they implement every year. For example, the league sends volunteers to help facilitate the St. Catharines community center bingo once a month. The SCMBA also organizes a pitch, hit and run program which is available to any youth in the community. The program introduces kids to different aspects of baseball in a competitive setting and the winner is invited to participate in an all-star game. Lastly, Elwell also has plans to expand this model and try a homerun derby day within the St. Catharines community as well.
Gameplay officially begins in May and ends in mid August. If anyone is interested in getting involved they are encouraged to visit the St. Catharines Minor Baseball Association website or Facebook page.