While they came back empty-handed from the Canadian championships, the lessons learned for one local little league baseball team far outweighs medals won.
Last week, the Greater Victoria (district seven) intermediate baseball team competed in Calgary at the Canadian championships, for the first time since Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders played in 1999.
The team consisted of 12 players from Central Saanich, Beacon Hill and Hampton between the ages of 11 and 13, many of whom have never played on a national stage before.
The first game, Victoria took on host Fish Creek and lost 17-5. The second game they played Lethbridge, losing 24-1. The final game against Lethbridge was a difficult one to swallow as they lost by one run, 9-8.
Overall, the team finished in fifth place, but according to team manager Morley Wittman, players walked away with valuable lessons.
“We struggled with the ability of some of our kids to just buckle down and just carry on. It was good learning for everyone. A lot of kids learned ‘hey, I can’t quit. I can’t blame somebody else. I have to look in the mirror and carry on and do my own thing’,” he said, adding each player grew as a person.
“The biggest thing that we developed was the experience to understand that kids from Ontario are exactly the same as kids from Victoria. We’re just as strong, it’s just a matter of trying to put the whole package together.”
For years, most little leagues haven’t had an intermediate team. However, last year, as a way of keeping kids at Centennial Park, Wittman decided to revive the program.
“We didn’t have any expectations of going anywhere, we just thought, ‘hey, let’s go to provincials’ and have a good time,” he said, adding many of the younger players have expressed interest in returning to the program next year as well.
“We’re growing slowly. Going forward, (the Canadians are) really going to help the program. It’s going to open people’s eyes to the fact that we can compete at a higher level of baseball . . . it makes it a little more exciting for some people.”
Next year, the Central Saanich and Victoria little leagues also hope to start a junior baseball program for 13 to 14-year-olds.