For Ashlar Young-Evans, of Fergus, and his Buffalo Wings teammates, more than 60 games this summer were decided south of the border. But travel baseball is no longer a summer commitment for aspiring youth players.
Last fall, while his friends were heading for hockey arenas, Young-Evans, 12, had weekend trips to indoor baseball venues in Guelph and Welland.
It is little known but there are more U.S. College scholarships given to Canadian baseball players today than hockey players. In January, Young-Evans learned of the Wings program and decided to join the team. For his family, Saturdays now included Guelph in the mornings, Welland afternoons, and Buffalo on evenings. Sunday mornings were spent training with an older team in Mississauga.
By the time of the family’s annual March break trip to Bucky Dent Camp at Del Ray, Florida, Young-Evans had gained a full seven miles per hour on his fastball. While there, he received an invitation to work out with the Jupiter Diamondbacks, a top American team. There are a number of factors that attracted the family to the program in Buffalo. It pitching coach for the Wings comes from the Miami area and his development philosophy is refreshing. The team also plays half its games at the 13-and under level, on a full-size major league diamond, and swings heavier bats – a two year advance on Ontario teams.
Perhaps the greatest attraction is the opportunity to participates in the National American Tournament of Champions week in Cooperstown. That is arguably the most competitive youth baseball tournament in North America.
Each week for 12 weeks, approximately 100 teams of 12-year-olds come to Cooperstown from all over. In 2006, more than 2,600 teams were turned away. Only about a dozen Ontario teams participate each year.
The kids stay with their coaches all week in bunkhouses.
They trade team pins, receive Youth Hall of Fame rings, and all games are webcast.
For Young-Evans, that is the big deal.
Lots of folks might really question the commitment required for travel Sports at the youth level. Although tiring and time consuming, it can foster a lot of other positive influences.
In travel baseball, most organizations recognize the need for a child to maintain good grades. At higher levels, those organizations exist to facilitate the process of attaining scholarships to United States schools.
Young-Evans’ parents said he knows that and he has developed the discipline to do his homework without asking.
Young-Evans is 5-foot, 7-inches and weighs 155 pounds. He is primarily a right handed pitcher and also plays first base.
What’s next for Young-Evans?
He hopes international exposure will continue in 2009. In the process of creating a fall tournament team, the nucleus of the Hamilton-based Can Am Thunderbirds team has formed.
The objective is to develop talent levels capable of playing competitively in tournaments near Philadelphia, Tennessee, and Florida where players will be able to stretch themselves.
Try-outs for all ages continued throughout the weekends of August at Bernie Arbor stadium in Hamilton.