THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO -- Over the next two months, the Blue Jays Baseball Academy will host instructional baseball camps in all 10 Canadian provinces. The camps will focus on growing the game of baseball nationally, while partnering with Baseball Canada, Little League Canada, and Honda Canada.
The camps will focus on teaching baseball fundamentals to children ages 10-16. Stations include hitting, infield, outfield, pitching, hitting, and baserunning.
The 2012 Honda Super Camp tour kicked off on Saturday afternoon with a one-day clinic at Port Arthur Stadium (Subway Field) in Thunder Bay. Blue Jays Baseball Academy instructors helped teach 60 local players the "Blue Jays Way of Baseball," with each participant receiving a t-shirt, hat and instructional manual.
The players also got an assist from former Blue Jays closer and World Series champion Duane Ward. Ward will be appearing at all 14 Honda Super Camps this summer, and has been an instrumental part of launching the Baseball Academy.
The instructional clinic in Thunder Bay helped celebrate the recent Field of Dreams grant that the Thunder Bay Border Cats received from the Jays Care Foundation. Field of Dreams is a granting program administered through the Jays Care Foundation that focuses on improving existing spaces that accommodate activity and community recreation.
Field of Dreams grants ensure that the space is accessible, inclusive, and are appealing to young people. The Jays Care Foundation recently funded two batting tunnels at Port Arthur Stadium, with the tunnels being utilized by Little League teams, children, youth camps, as well as local charitable and community groups.
"Anytime you can partner with the Blue Jays, it's a good thing," said Brad Jorgenson, owner of the Thunder Bay Border Cats. "The Blue Jays are doing a lot in the community with their baseball clinics and their Field of Dreams program and the Border Cats like to give back to the community also, so it just made sense.
"Thunder Bay is a hockey town, so to have this type of focus on baseball, is a real help. To have the two batting tunnels helps. It gets kids playing baseball, which is a good thing for everyone".
Said parent Carlos Barcena: "To have the Blue Jays come up to Thunder Bay is awesome. This is the first time my son [Diego] has received baseball instruction from such an experienced staff. It's not often a player like Duane Ward comes up to Thunder Bay. It's amazing!"
"Its great to get out to all areas of Canada," Ward said. "The people of Thunder Bay have been great to the Blue Jays over the years, and you can see how this town is a baseball hotbed. The community really rallies around the Blue Jays, which is nice to see.
"The area I grew up in New Mexico was a very humbling place. Because of that, I have tried as much as possible to help give back to the baseball community, and help give kids a chance to succeed in both baseball and life. I think what the Blue Jays and the Jays Care Foundation are doing through Field of Dreams programs is outstanding. They are really having am impact on young peoples lives, and I am really proud to be apart of it. Funding these batting tunnels will have an impact on kids' lives."
For more information on the Blue Jays Baseball Academy or Field of Dreams Grants, please visit bluejays.com/baseballacademy
Rob Jack is a contributor to bluejays.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.