A lack of proper baseball facilities in Lake Cowichan is not only negatively impacting adult recreational players in the area, but also youth in the community, according to the local minor league association.
Earlier this month, at the town’s parks, recreation and culture committee meeting, Lake Cowichan District Minor Baseball Association president Kelly Bergstrom spoke in support of the Centennial Park upgrades, citing a talent drain of young players at the Lake who play for other teams because there are no opportunities for them here.
Bergstrom has been involved with minor baseball in Lake Cowichan for 10 years, both as a coach and on the executive, and told the Gazette the association currently has four rally cap teams, one mosquito team and one tadpole team.
“That’s all we could field this year. We didn’t have a peewee or a bantam this year. Part [of the reason] was numbers and part was the field, too,” said Bergstrom.
“For baseball to grow and to keep the kids here we have to have that field. We would have had a midget team last year but they weren’t willing to commute to Duncan to play. If we had a field here we would have had a team, no question about it.”
According to Bergstrom, the league lost 30 kids because there simply was no field for them to play on. At only 200 feet, the one field in Lake Cowichan that is in use — the upper field by Centennial Hall — is too small for the older kids to play on.
Four players on the Cowichan Valley Mustangs, which recently won the provincial AAA under-18 championship, are from Lake Cowichan and got their start playing here. Bergstrom said he’s hopeful that by having proper facilities here and an expanded program, there will be an increase in local players achieving at such high levels, also noting that Josh Hill from Lake Cowichan competed in baseball at the B.C. Summer Games this year.
The association plans to offer winter (indoor) ball this year in an attempt to get kids playing earlier and have more on the field come spring 2017. Bergstrom also said he’s pushing for the creation of a midget team this year.
Bergstrom said the interest is there, especially given Lake Cowichan’s long history as a baseball-loving community.
In April there was a caravan of coaches from New York touring B.C. that passed through town and offered a skills training camp. “We had 120 kids on the field,” said Bergstrom.
“[The coaches] told us it would be an honour for them to come back again because it was such a great experience seeing 120 kids on the field. They loved it.”
New fields are key to tapping into all that potential, said Bergstrom.