With the growth of any organization comes a host of challenges, whether that be a business or a baseball team. Salmon Arm Minor Baseball is contending with their own growing pains, as an increasing number of teams compete for a limited amount of practice space and field times.
“Baseball almost died in Salmon Arm probably five or six years ago. Since I got involved about three years back, the numbers have been growing; year over year growth is huge,” says Mark Delleman, a coach with the baseball association. “But the challenge right now is that a majority of our kids who play are playing on private fields, the main fields we use.”
While a handful of public fields in Salmon Arm house baseball diamonds, such as Blackburn Park and the Canoe Ball Diamond, many clubs vie for field times. Minor baseball has relied on leasing private fields which they help maintain, such as at Elks Park, one of the main places they play.
“All in all, 70 per cent of the kids play on private fields that minor baseball maintains, and pays to maintain year over year. That’s the biggest challenge honestly; we have to maintain those fields for the majority of kids,” Delleman says.
Complicating the situation further, a key piece of their practice routine was removed last season.
“They took our batting cage out, they told us about it, that was last season. We find our kids can’t hit the ball as well as other associations; we have no batting cage to help our kids get better at hitting,” Delleman says. “It’s all about repetition, it’s being able to sit in a cage and have someone watch and coach. If you are going to do that on the diamond you have to take up the whole diamond, otherwise you risk kids getting hurt with balls flying everywhere.”
To that end, Salmon Arm’s minor baseball association pitched the idea of some form of partnership with the city at the Nov. 13 development and planning session. Delleman, along with fellow association member Scott Steward, asked for consideration for future fields and partnerships to brainstorm ideas to grow their existing field space to be able to host large events and tournaments.
“If we want to stay at this level we need facilities like a batting cage. Not only minor sports would use something like that; people play slo-pitch into their later years and could use a facility like that,” Delleman said during the meeting. “We are not just asking the city to pony up the money. Minor baseball has a gaming grant and other grants they apply for. We are looking to partner with the city and have a conversation.”
Coun. Kevin Flynn noted that the association is bringing their own money to the table, and that may help their case when it comes to having those conversations about a partnership. Delleman thinks the ability to host large events could bring an economic benefit as well.
“I think it’s huge. I am a board member with minor hockey and the tournaments we run for minor hockey are huge; it really puts us on the map in some ways. We have teams coming up every year from the Okanagan, U.S., and Northwest Territories,” Delleman said. “If you have the facilities, they will come, and it does generate a ton of money. All these teams have to spend money on hotels and food. Business is going to see profit from it. It would definitely support the community.”