Blue Jays alumni impressed with Okotoks facility
Baseball: Former Major Leaguers enjoy camp experience
By: John Barlow
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 07, 2013 12:13 pm
When Seaman Stadium was built in Okotoks several years ago it was never intended to host a professional team let a lone an all-star team comprised of some of the best to every play the game.
An impressive collection of Toronto Blue Jays greats shagged flies, pitched whiffle balls and critiques swings for three days last week as part of the Jay’s Super Camp. More than 180 youth from across southern Alberta attended the event to not only learn the fundamentals, but also have an opportunity to spend time with their baseball heroes — okay, more accurately, their parents’ baseball heroes.
Two-time World Series champion Duane Ward admitted often the parents are more excited to chat with the players then the camp’s participants.
“They remember us playing, especially the back-to-back World Series teams,” said Ward during a break in the action. “That’s good, that’s where is starts. It starts with the parents. The parents bring their kids to the games and if they relate with us that is great.
“I am sure a lot of these kids are going to go home today and Google us and see if we had a good career and if we are as good as we say we were.”
Although it is a thrill for the parents to sit in the stands on a warm summer afternoon and watch some of the game’s greats, the focus of the camps is to help the youth and build the game across Canada.
Devon White, who roamed centerfield for the Jays in the early 1990s and was a member of those World Series teams, said it is crucial for the players to come back and continue to build the game.
“We cherish those moments when we were small and we had anyone come and help us,” said White, who played AAA ball with the Edmonton Trappers. “This is part of giving back to the game. It is always great to see the young up and coming kids.
“We get to see these kids who are starving to play baseball.”
White, who also won a World Series with the Florida Marlins in 1997, said baseball is making a resurgence in Canada and it is because of programs like the Dawgs Baseball Academy and facilities like Seaman Stadium. That resurgence is leading to an influx of talents Canadians in professional baseball.
“As you can now there are a lot Canadians who are playing at the professional level and a lot more in the minor leagues,” said White. “They just need to get the exposure.”
Jesse Barfield was a member of what many consider the best all around outfield in baseball in the 1980s when he teams with George Bell and Lloyd Moseby on the Blue Jay outfield. With one of the strongest arms in baseball and the American League homerun champion ion 1986, Barfield now enjoys spending time with the youngsters and sharing his experiences.
He said he saw some talent in Okotoks.
“There is a lot of knowledge out here,” said Barfield of the Jays alumni at the camp. “It is not about us obviously it is about (the kids), but the bottom line is they are eager, eager to learn and they have a chance to get better.
“We came a long way to help and they understand that.”
Barfield said he wished they more time to spend with the children because there is some potential on the field at Seaman Stadium.
He agreed saying baseball is making a comeback in Canada and the Jays camps are playing a role in that resurgence.
“Hockey is obviously number one, but to have this caliber of ball players here helping this is priceless,” said Barfield. “I wish I would have had something like this.
“You look at these kids, they are raw, but they won’t be raw when we leave.”
Barfield, who also played for the New York Yankees, said he was impressed with the number of children who registered at the camp and he said they will be back.
Dawgs vice-president William Gardner said it was an outstanding experience for the participants and the Blue Jays Super Camp provided an opportunity to showcase the Dawgs program.
However, this was also an opportunity for the Toronto Blue Jays to see what Seaman Stadium and the Tourmaline Fieldhouse has to offer.
“To have this type of facility for them to use I just have to think they have to be appreciative to look at future things for development like year-round camps, tournaments and all kinds of things,” said Gardner of the Jays. “We all know until you are here to experience it, to touch it, it is pretty overwhelming the first time you walk (into Seaman Stadium) and realize what is here.”
The Jays camp included Duane Ward, Devon White, Lloyd Moseby, Jesse Barfield, Cecil Fielder, Denis Boucher Otto Velez and Hall-of-Famer Roberto Alomar.