Reginaís Fall Ball Baseball League didnít just grow in numbers this season, it grew in stature as well.
The league grew to 11 teams (including three from Brandon) and over 140 players from seven teams and 100 players last season. Major League Baseball scouts also made their first appearance at the three-year-old program.
Dennis Mitchell, a scout of the Cincinnati Reds, attended the program on the Sept. 20 weekend, and liked what he saw.
"They have a really nice program," said Mitchell, who scouts the Dakotas, Minnesota, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. "Theyíre bringing in minor league players and coaches, kids from the Regina Red Sox to give a little bit of instruction. Plus they get extra games. Itís a terrific program."
The program was created by Leo MacDonald, who was disappointed the baseball season ended in July.
The league, which is open to rookie-, mosquito-, pee wee- and bantam-aged kids, brings in guest instructors to work with the players. They also play at least two games each weekend.
Mitchell heard about the league through Faron Asham, one of the coaches of the Brandon teams.
"He mentioned they were bringing this Fall Ball in and trying to get Manitoba and Saskatchewan kids playing a little longer," said Mitchell. "I thought, ĎI never get a chance to see bantam-aged kids and pee wee-aged kidsí and that was a weekend I just happened to have with nothing to do."
The trip was worth it. Mitchell gave out information sheets to three players, including Tyler Folk of Regina.
Mitchell also told other scouts about the Fall Ball program, and theyíre anxious to see the players next year.
"I have a buddy who works for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Iíve all ready talked to him about it," Mitchell said. "I know he couldnít be there this year, but heís already making plans for next year."
MacDonald was surprised to see scouts at the league, which is based out of Lions Park, this year. To him, it means the program is working.
"When you get a scout like that, it means thereís some good quality baseball going on," he said. "There are some good quality kids that are benefiting from this.
"Weíre not promoting it in a big way, like advertising it across the country. Itís just sort of spreading by word of mouth."
Although his league is garnering some Major League attention, MacDonald doesnít think of Fall Ball as anything extravagant. He views it as providing a venue for kids who want to play baseball in the autumn months. Itís not just for competitive kids, either. Children who come out to play for fun also participate in the league.
While the kids are enjoying playing in the league, Mitchell and MacDonald know itís the time of year Fall Ball runs in that makes the program great.
"Itís great for the kids to get outside at that time of year instead of being stuck in a rink," Mitchell said. "Iíve got nothing against hockey, but kids need to be outside. They need to do things other than hockey. Even Gretzky says that."
"You get those days where itís sunny and hot and September," MacDonald added. "Weíre out there playing baseball and weíre having a great time. Is there anything better than a baseball park?