A lifelong love of baseball has led to Darren’s current role as President of the Coffs Harbour Baseball Association. Darren explains the benefits of a sport that is as much a game played with the mind, as the body, encouraging fitness, teamwork and strategy.
What’s your role with the Association, and how long have you been involved?
I am currently the President of the Coffs Harbour Baseball Association and have filled this role for 2 seasons; I am also the PR/photographer for the Association. My love for baseball started when I played for the Harbord Hustlers as a kid on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
I have been involved in local baseball since 2003, when my wife, Jacqui, and I took on vacated coaching and scoring roles. Jacqui became a level 2 scorer and I gained my coaching accreditations, and we began to tour the kids through all the carnivals and national championships, such as the Country Championships held in Tamworth and the National Regional Championships in Kempsey.
Please tell us a bit about the history of the Association …
The official start to the Association was the summer season of 1984 and although successful, a move to a winter sport increased numbers immediately. The sport has since remained a winter sport in Coffs Harbour. During the late ’80s and early ’90s, the sport of baseball grew to an amazing size and was flourishing, with diamonds established in Woolgoolga, Sawtell and Bray St, Coffs Harbour, and the annual ‘Woopi Cup’ was an eastern seaboard wide event that attracted teams in record numbers.
For the last 2 years, our Association played host to the Senior Country Championships, which attracted 2,000 players, coaches, umpires and family members, but weather 2 years concurrently played havoc with the running.
In 2007, the home of baseball became Marshalls Estate on Stadium Drive. With brand new facilities and 2 beautiful diamonds set out at Olympic dimensions, we have the premier spot on the coast to play and hold tournaments. Numbers declined over several years, as juniors moved on. However, this season saw numbers in the junior ranks steadily increase, and parents have returned to help score and coach – which has been a blessing for the sport.
How many members do you currently have?
As we enter the finals this year, we currently have 3 clubs, being the Woolgoolga Bluesox, the Sawtell Dodgers and the Coffs Harbour Allstars. Each club fields teams in the junior comp (under 14s) B Grade (15 and older) and A Grade men’s. Macleay field a team in the A Grade, and they travel up each Saturday to compete. Kids from as young as 5 play, and we have members playing well into their senior years.
We have a junior rep squad, which is run by Allstars President Chris Cook, and we have a senior rep team run by Michael Crossland. We also have dedicated umpiring and scoring members, as well as canteen volunteers and grounds people. All up, we have about 200 people involved in baseball each and every Saturday.
How often do players meet for matches and training?
Games are held each Saturday, with the juniors running 2 games from 8.30am, with one team each week having a double-header. B Grade starts at midday and is a 2 hour time based game, which means we usually run 4-5 completed innings for the result. A grade plays from 2pm through to 4.30 and must complete 5 innings. Junior and B Grade teams are based on age; however, dispensation can be made and outstanding players can move up a grade, should their skills be competent enough. Three coaches must agree and a duty of care analysed in order for such a change. Many kids make the transition from the junior ranks to B Grade during a season and are slowly introduced to the faster game.
Training is scheduled around the coach of each squad but is mostly held on a week day afternoon. Kids from the Northern Beaches train at Sandy Beach, but all kids are welcomed to train with any coach at any session.
What competitions does the Association currently play in?
We have 4 members who are currently selected in the prestigious ‘Aussie Expos Australian baseball team’, which play in 3 separate tournaments in the USA each June, headed by Michael Crossland. They get billeted into 2 separate families and get a taste of various cultures, they learn public speaking, and they have terrific role models. They also have a real opportunity to take the world stage in baseball, with college selectors in attendance at each game.
We also take a team to the Junior Country Championships, which is the lead in to the Nationals, if you gain a selection, held in Tamworth or Illawarra each July. This is an aged based tournament and if we cannot field a full team, we sometimes combine with Kempsey or Tamworth to take the field. The men also play in the Senior Men’s Country Championships, which this year is held in Illawarra.
Are there any rising young baseball stars coming through the ranks at the moment?
There’s Jason Bromell (my son), who has played baseball since the age of 6 and has competed at local, regional, state, national and now international level. Jason has pitched or played short stop in all levels of the game and returned from the US for the third time this year, having a batting average of over 700 and receiving the Brian Jiminez outstanding player award and an offer to try out for college next June when he returns to California.
Reece Benson is a rising star of the game and is a recent inclusion to the state ‘train-on’ squad for country baseball. Reece has a true love of the game, and his skills have climbed very high over the last 18 months. He has the talent and the determination to lead him into big things, and we will encourage him all the way.
Another young man we have our eye on is Sam Langler, who moved into B Grade this season and has made the transition effortlessly. Sam plays the game beyond his years, has a great head for the game and the backing of his coach and dad to see him all the way.
Why would you encourage people to take up baseball as a sport?
Baseball is a game of both mind and body. There is nothing harder than hitting a round ball with a round bat, and the feeling players get when they smack a clean hit over the fence or take a running catch is amazing. For kids, it is a truly fantastic sport, as they learn to throw the ball fast and straight with the correct technique, they learn to run the bases, and they learn how to bat a fast pitched ball.
They learn all this while analysing constant changes and plays set to happen. It is a very interesting game, which is much like chess in the thinking and highly skilled in its implementation.
Where can people find out more information?
The simplest way is to attend a game on any Saturday from early March through to mid September at the baseball diamond on Stadium Drive opposite the Bunnings roundabout. Alternatively, anyone interested can contact me through my email address: email@example.com
Interview by Jo Atkins.
This story was published in issue 25 of the Coffs Coast Focus