With booming numbers and no additional ball diamonds, Tuesday, Jan. 15 is an important date for families wanting to register their children for spring baseball.
Cochrane Minor Ball (CMB) registrations are being accepted on a first come, first served basis for all their divisions, from T-ball to senior ball as well as softball and in recent years there simply haven't been enough diamonds to keep up with the demand.
The cap of 120 players remains in place for both T-ball and coach pitch, so parents are encouraged to register early. Minor House (9-10). Major House (11-12) both have caps of 96 players and so far they haven't had to turn away any player. Nor have they had to turn away any players for their intermediate (age 13), junior (14) and senior (15-16) divisions, which have a cap of 120 players each.
Minor ball is also offering blast ball for the second time. It's a fun program for 4-year-olds on Saturday mornings. They use a soft bat and ball and when they run and step on first base the base honks. There is no cap established.
Acute shortage of ball diamonds
CMB president Corey O'How says waiting lists have become commonplace and will only continue to grow unless the town brings more diamonds onstream.
“We do the best we can, but if our numbers continue to grow at the pace that they’ve been growing, we’re really going to have to start turning kids away," says O'How. "We definitely don’t want to do that but we are limited by the number of diamonds we have."
“Cochrane Minor Ball has done a really good job of making our scheduling system efficient to get as much out of the system as we can, but really it’s time for the Town of Cochrane to step up and help us out.”
"I think they realize there is a need but I don’t believe there’s any urgency from the town to do something about it."
There's a springboard effect from the larger numbers of younger age groups that are filtering into the older age groups. O'How says they are expecting a large number of major division players advancing to juniors and juniors advancing to seniors. This year they expect to have at least three junior teams and two, possibly three senior teams.
Right now there's only one full-sized baseball diamond in Cochrane that can be used by senior teams and it's shared with adult leagues, who could also use more diamond time to meet their high demand. Last year it was also used by the newly created Cochrane Toros to play in the Calgary North Baseball League for players 17-21 years old.
While there have been preliminary discussions on developing quad diamonds in the land being annexed by the town north of Heritage Hills, O'How says they have been told it could be five years before they come on stream.
New Baseball Alberta 'AA' team
CMB is also introducing a new 'AA' bantam travelling baseball team that offers high calibre play for 15-16-year-olds.
"We’re pretty excited about offering a competitive baseball program in Cochrane to allow some of our baseball kids to showcase their talent here in Cochrane instead of having to go to Calgary."
Currently, they are conducting interviews for the coaching position.
They also put the call out to form an 'AA' midget team (16-18-year-olds) but numbers were too low to form a team this season.
Across the province, there are over 40 bantam teams and over 30 midget teams in the Baseball Alberta's 'AA' program.
More and more players are opting to play ball in the summer minor and major regional league that follows spring ball, says O'How. Summer ball is relatively new to Cochrane and last year they had two teams that both won their respective championships.
“We’ve been successful in winning championships, but more importantly we’ve been successful in growing the program. The kids have been coming out, working hard and representing the Town of Cochrane very well.”
“We’ve had some really good success on the field and that’s a tribute to the kids and their hard work and their attitude. That’s our motto, "Attitude, Effort and Focus" and all of the kids that have come through the system for the last two summers have really put work into their core value of becoming better players and, more importantly, better people.”
This season they could potentially have up to four teams playing summer ball.
Fundraising for retractable batting cage
Minor ball is in the early stages of fundraising to purchase a retractable batting cage for use on the artificial turf at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre to enhance their training through the winter. The cost is $40,000 to purchase and install.
"Over the next few months, we’ll really ramp up our fundraising and hope to have it at the turf for the next winter program."
They are currently seeking donations and sponsorships to make it possible.
Those interested in offering donations and volunteering with minor ball can contact them through their website. That's the same place registrations are being accepted. Go to www.cochraneminorball.ca.