Long trek for Fall Ball
By ROB VANSTONE
The long drives of Taylor Madsen and Frits Horback are not restricted to the baseball diamond.
On each of the past four Saturdays, Madsen and Horback have been driven to Saskatchewan from their Manitoba homes to take part in Baseball Regina’s Fall Ball Baseball League. The instructional league’s final session is slated for today, weather permitting, at Lions Park.
“It’s for the love of the game,’’ said Nicole Madsen, Taylor’s mother. “We’re having lots of fun.’’
Madsen, 13, is from Hamiota, Man., which is 100 kilometres northwest of Brandon. Horback, 12, hails from Minnedosa, which is 75 kilometres north of Brandon.
Each Saturday morning, Horback, his seven-year-old sister (Angel) and his mother (Kathy) have driven one hour to Hamiota, picked up the Madsen travelling party, and motored three more hours to Regina. They usually return home the same day, as midnight nears.
“The driving isn’t too bad,’’ said Nicole Madsen, who customarily makes the trip with Taylor and his 10-year-old sister, Shailyn. “We have lots to chit-chat about. The time goes by pretty quickly. The kids watch movies.’’
The Fall Ball Baseball League offers players guest instruction along with games in the mosquito, bantam and pee wee age divisions. The instructors are veteran Regina coaches and some of the Queen City’s most-accomplished young players (such as members of the Regina Red Sox and college players). The program is also constructive as far as mentorship of umpires.
Fall Ball attracted Madsen and Horback — and roughly 100 other players — even though the Manitobans could have stayed in their home province.
“There is a league in Winnipeg, but it’s a lot more expensive,’’ Nicole Madsen noted. “They require two nights a week plus one day on the weekend. We had already signed up for Regina when we found out about Winnipeg, but this is a lot more convenient for us. We’re three hours away from Winnipeg and three hours away from Regina.’’
And further away from summer every day.
“This just gives them some extra ballplaying,’’ Nicole Madsen explained. “Most kids, if they don’t go to provincials, wrap up early in July. If you’re fortunate enough to make the AAA team, you’re playing until the end of July.
“This gives them different skills and an opportunity to meet different coaches and players. They seem to be having fun at it.’’
The welcoming nature of Regina’s baseball community has helped matters.
“The parents in Regina are kind of shocked that we’d travel that distance, but they’ve been very friendly and nice to talk to,’’ Nicole said.
The Manitobans have been so impressed that they want to try it again.
“This is only their second year of doing this (program), but I can see it’s going to be a big drawing feature,’’ Nicole said. “We’re talking about coming back next year or sending a whole team to do it.
“I think it’s a real benefit to the kids to build their skills. The boys are really enjoying having people like Mitch MacDonald (a Regina-born Florida Marlins draftee) and Morgan Reiter (of the Inside Pitch) do instruction before the game.”