Joel Ainsworth would like nothing better than to see baseball diamonds in and around Sarnia brimming with kids emulating their favourite Major League baseball players again.
The former pitcher turned coach in the Sarnia Braves minor baseball system has fond memories playing ball with his buddies in the 1980’s and 1990’s when the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays were at the top of their games.
“It’s all about fun in the sun to me,” Ainsworth said with a chuckle, noting the less than summer-like temperatures.
“It’s about being outside and being part of a team.”
Ainsworth, 37, was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1995. He is among a host of Braves alumni who played professionally, internationally or at the collegiate level over the years.
“We’re proud of the (Braves) organization, the tradition and the product,” he said.
Many former players are back in the area wanting to help with the game they love, Ainsworth said.
“I think our coaches will really help the kids with their skills,” he said, noting the Braves want to increase the numbers at the grassroots level.
“The younger the better,” he said. “Six, seven, eight, nine years old.”
The skill sets for each position on a baseball team are so different that virtually everyone who comes out to play baseball should be able to find a place on a team, he said.
The Braves are hosting winter workouts at various schools in Sarnia and begin outdoor practice within a month or so.
“We get outdoors by about the middle of April.”
League play begins in early May in the London and District Baseball Association, the Western Counties Baseball Association and select leagues in Michigan with the four-month season for each team consisting of about 50 league and tournament games.
“We’re very similar to the “AA” and “AAA” (minor) hockey model, where we can offer a higher level of competition,” said Ainsworth.
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