The Oshawa Legionaires have incorporated a new mentorship program with their teams known as Baseball Buddies. Beginning last fall, each team was paired up with another to go through the ropes for what measures it takes to be successful at the higher levels of competition. This past week, teams began a pen-pal system corresponding through email between the players paired up together. Like any supportive relationship, a proper role model can be a huge bonus to the development as not only a player but as a person as well.
One group of teams that are paired together are the 18u Elite and the 10u AAA teams. 12 players from each team are a part of the Baseball Buddies program as they strive to improve the relationships between different age groups. In the past, these teams would have little to no chance to run into one another, but this program looks to change that. In the fall, the 10u players were introduced to the crowd at the 18u pre-game. As a bonus, they got to participate in batting practice and watch bullpen sessions.
“From the 18u group, I hope they see the positives of giving back to the younger generation,” coach Jayson DesLauriers of the Oshawa Legionaires 18u Elite explained when discussing his perspective of the program and how his players can grow from it. “I hope they gain the experience of being a bit of a coach to these kids. And I hope they get some sense of fun back. Many times at 18u with the pressures of moving forward to post-secondary ball, it’s all about stress and endless work.”
This sentiment is shared by the players of DesLauriers’ club. Peter Houston, a player for the 18u Elite has found the Baseball Buddies program to be valuable in terms of growth not only for his partner but for himself as well. “It has made me feel better as a leader and a mentor to help the young and upcoming kids of Oshawa achieve their goals in becoming the player they want to be,” Houston said. “I personally love helping and mentoring the young kids because it makes me feel good that I am taking the time out of my day to do something that many other kids may not want to do in their spare time.”
Peter Houston and his pen-pal, Wesley Shcachow of the 10u AAA team, have talked about important topics such as where they wish to play baseball post-secondary, but have also discussed their favourite baseball players, favourite positions, and even talked about video games. The program is really about finding a confidant to show the younger generation that the older kids are still just that, kids; that if they work hard, they can be just as talented as them someday. “With their dedication to email my team and me back, it shows how much they can trust us and how determined they are to get better as a player.”
For the upcoming season, both teams are looking to watch as many of each other’s home games as possible, given COVID-19 protocols. They are also hoping to have some joint practices and workouts, giving the younger team exposure to the excitement that more serious baseball has to give. “We see a different level of compete from the younger players when they have an 18U player around. This was on display when the 18U players assisted with tryouts.” said the coach of the 10u team. “We often hear about how our younger guys want to learn to
play a particular position like their older Baseball Buddy does, or how they are excited to
follow that buddy to the same school in the future.”
This mutual relationship that is the Baseball Buddies program has the potential to be a monumental phase of development for the Oshawa Legionaires franchise. While the pandemic has currently limited the program to pen-pals, as protocols continue to lessen with vaccines being shipped out, the benefits of training together will become a major asset. “Over the last season, we have lost so much connection in our little baseball world,” DesLauriers said. “These types of programs should bring some of that back and unite these players. I’m excited to see if any of them continue their friendships past this year.”