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Burk’s Falls councillor says Toronto Blue Jays’ programs get more kids into sports

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A Burk’s Falls town councillor, who also coaches the Burk’s Falls Boltz of the Almaguin Softball League, says the Toronto Blue Jays have been very generous to the young ball team in several areas.

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Ryan Baptiste says not only has the Jays’ organization donated $50,000 to the community so it can improve its ball field, which the North Bay Nugget earlier reported, it’s made equipment donations which have made a big difference to the young players who are eight to 12 years old.

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Baptiste says the Boltz have been recipients of bats, balls, helmets and gloves, and the gifts came when the ball team was still new and the boys and girls didn’t yet have any equipment.

“The village had usable equipment but it’s in older shape,” Baptiste said.

“So lots of the kids got new gloves and helmets”.

Baptiste has now been dealing with the Jays for a little more than a year and fully supports their inclusivity initiatives.

“They want our coaches to be trained on their programs for inclusivity,” he said.

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And in the spirit of inclusivity, Baptiste says the Jays recently provided equipment under its Challenge Baseball program to engage young boys and girls with developmental abilities in the sport.

“They gave us equipment that’s more user friendly,” he said.

“Instead of using big, hard softballs, they gave us dense foam balls, lighter bats, more comfortable helmets and the shirts are made of more comfortable material.

“We include the players in our games, but if they also want to break off separately, they’ll go with friends or a coach and play a little differently”.

Sometimes the players with developmental abilities will come in as a substitute for another player during a game, and Baptiste says they just love to get involved.

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“The opposing teams work with them too,” Baptiste said.

“They want them to succeed. It’s one of the coolest things to watch. Their peers work with them instead of a coach stepping in”.

Baptiste says the Jays have also donated more equipment to run a Girls at Bat program.

“This is to keep the girls involved in the game longer.” he said.

“This is a big thing for the Jays because they want them in leadership roles. They want to empower girls to continue in the world of sports.”

Baptiste says the program is working because for the first time ever, the softball league has attracted more female coaches than ever before.

He says in this instance three players, all girls, aged out of the league once they became teenagers but after a short while they returned as coaches.

Baptiste says none of this likely could have occurred had the Jays not stepped in with their various programs.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. 

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