A true once in a lifetime experience
Sometime next week eight baseball teams will be rolling into London. The teams will be made up of kids that are 13-years-old and younger. They’ll be playing in the Baseball Canada 13U National Championship at Stronach Park.
It starts Thursday with teams from Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Nova Scotia, British Columbia and the host London Badgers team.
Before anyone starts wondering about what the big deal is, remember what it was like for you when you were involved in a major event as a youngster.
These players may not be 18, 19 or 20. They may not be playing at university or the minor leagues but they are among the top players in their age group in Canada and that’s quite an accomplishment.
Aside from the fact they play the game well, and if you like live baseball it’s well worth a jaunt to have a look-see, this will be an unforgettable moment in the lives of these players.
No doubt some of these players will go on to other national championships. They’ll go on to play at a higher level in a bigger setting in front of more fans. No doubt their future experiences will surpass what will happen from Thursday next week until Sunday.
But for many, there may not be any greater experience. This will be their only national championship appearance. Maybe the players go on to another sport or because of circumstances their teams won’t get back to the highest level of competition for their age group.
And even for those that will go on to bigger and better things, they aren’t thinking of any of that. They aren’t thinking about the next week or next year. Their moment is now and for anyone who has had any contact with young athletes it’s contagious to see how excited they are.
This is a national championship. It’s their World Series. Stronach Park is their Fenway Park or Comerica Park or Wrigley Field or Yankee Stadium.
Chris Robinson has been there. The Dorchester native recently retired from professional baseball. He was a nine-year pro before retiring this year to continue his baseball life as an instructor at Centrefield Sports in London.
He lived the dream. One of his final acts as a pro player was hitting a pinch-hit, three-run homer last September with the San Diego Padres. It was his first hit in the major leagues.
He played in two national championships in his teens one with London and one with Windsor.
“You really don’t forget them especially at that age,” Robinson said. “You don’t play for national championships that young. It’s like a Super Bowl for them. It won’t get any better for them.
“Big games like that are the pinnacle of your career. You are representing something whether Manitoba or Ontario. You are representing something that is bigger than yourself whether it’s on the provincial, national or international stage. It’s neat to rally around that.”
Robinson says he also played in the Canada Summer Games but in volleyball and he still remembers that calling it one of his most memorable experiences and it was off the baseball field.
“No matter what age you are at. You are playing in an important game and that’s exciting, really exciting,” Robinson said. “
So when you decide to go to Stronach to catch some of the action remember players like Robinson.
He played baseball at 13 and went on to play internationally for Canada for eight years, played minor baseball for nine years, played in the World Baseball Classic and in the Pan American Games and in the Olympics.
Catch the 13-year-olds and you’ll be able to say “I remember when . . .”
Dorchester’s Chris Robinson has always been one of these nice people that you know is going to be successful one way or another.
Since retiring from professional baseball last year, he’s teamed up with Adam Stern and Jamie Romak at Centrefield Sports instructing would-be baseball players as well as coaching his own team.
Now the well-spoken former player is exploring another avenue for his baseball talent.
He’s been doing some television and radio work with both TSN and Sportsnet.
If you were listening last week to 590 Radio in Toronto, the Blue Jay flagship station, you would have heard Robinson pairing up with Jays’ play-by-play voice Jerry Howarth, to do in-game analysis in a game against the Baltimore Orioles.
“I really love it,” Robinson said. “When they called me and asked me to do the game, I asked what team is was. When they said the Orioles, I thought ‘great. I really know them. I caught 85 per cent of their pitching staff.’ Imagine that; doing a game with Jerry Howarth. How good is that?”
Robinson wouldn’t mind doing a little more broadcast work.
“Joe Siddall (Howarth’s new partner) is great. But if they ever needed someone to fill in, I would love to do it,” Robinson said.