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Jim Baba set to retire as Baseball Canada’s Executive Director

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OTTAWA – After 21 years as Baseball Canada’s Executive Director, Jim Baba will be retiring from the post he’s held for over two decades later this year.

The Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan native has been involved with Baseball Canada dating back to 1990 when he was a guest coach with the men’s national team which evolved into stints as head coach of the program from 1993-1998 and again in 2003 and 2005.

In 2000, Baba left his native Saskatchewan and his post as Executive Director with Baseball Saskatchewan for the nation’s capital and the role of Manager, Baseball Operations with Baseball Canada. Shortly thereafter, he transitioned to the role of Executive Director where he has overseen the federation’s Ottawa office operations for the last 21 years.

“When you think of Baseball Canada a select few names come to mind and Jim Baba is definitely one of them,” said Baseball Canada President Jason Dickson. “The impact he has had on baseball in Canada from his role as Executive Director has been immeasurable across all areas of our sport.”

During Baba’s tenure, Baseball Canada has achieved unparalleled success at the National Teams level in qualifying for a pair of Olympic Games (2004, 2008), the implementation of the Women’s National Team program in 2004 that sits today as the No. 2 ranked program in the world, winning back-to-back Pan Am Games gold medals (2011, 2015) for the men’s national team program and witnessing the growth of a Junior National Team program that is renowned as one of the best of its kind in the world.

On the grassroots side, Baseball Canada has introduced successful programs Rally Cap and Winterball for initiation players and coaches over Baba’s watch that are now widely popular throughout the country.

Baseball Canada’s National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) has experienced tremendous growth over the last 20 years both in terms of the number of certified baseball coaches across the country and the way in which we register, track and deliver coach education.

Baba was one of the main players in Baseball Canada adopting Challenger Baseball for athletes with physical and cognitive disabilities in 2012 and seeing the program’s growth to today where a partnership between Baseball Canada, Little League Canada and Jays Care Foundation delivers programming to hundreds of Canadians each year.

Not only has Baba’s impact on baseball been felt across Canada but his reach extends globally through his work with the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC). A key figure with the international federation’s Technical Commissioners Team, Baba has instructed at “TC” clinics throughout the world and has been Technical Director at numerous Baseball World Cups, the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, both Premier12 events and is scheduled to serve as Technical Director for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

“It’s incredible to look at everything that Jim has played a role in during his time as Executive Director,” added Dickson. “The organization is in a tremendous place right now and we have him to thank for that.

“The respect that Jim Baba has in the Canadian baseball community and throughout the world is fully deserved and a testament to Jim as a person and how he’s conducted himself throughout his career with class and dignity.”

Baba is also a cherished member of both the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame and the Moose Jaw Sports Hall of Fame.

A search for his replacement will commence in the near future with Baba transitioning into retirement by the end of the calendar year.

Baseball Canada

André Lachance set to depart Baseball Canada

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OTTAWA – Baseball Canada’s Business and Sport Development Director André Lachance is bidding farewell to his duties in the federation’s national office later this month as he accepted a role with Cirque du Soleil as their Director, Human Performance Services.

Lachance is also well known in Canadian baseball circles for his work with the Women’s National Team program as Manager from 2004-2018 and off the field as General Manager since 2019, a role which he will also be departing.

Lachance has spent the last 21 years with Baseball Canada.

“I’m certainly experiencing many emotions making this decision and coming to terms with the fact that I’ll be leaving an organization that I care deeply for,” said Lachance. “Looking back, you’re certainly proud of the work that you’ve accomplished but it’s the people that you meet throughout your career and the relationships made that I will cherish the most from my time with Baseball Canada.”

Lachance joined the organization early in 2001 as Manager, Baseball Operations and quickly made an impact with Baseball Canada’s National Championship events and National Coaching (NCCP) programs.

“Looking how far we’ve come with our coaching programs has really been amazing to see in not only how we’re able to deliver coach education opportunities but how many coaches across the country we’ve been able to impact,” said Lachance. “The efforts made by our provincial members and a dedicated group of learning facilitators has been tremendous.”

In 2003, Baseball Canada Director General Jim Baba approached Lachance about coaching the first-ever Women’s National Team with the inaugural Women’s Baseball World Cup set to take place in Edmonton in 2004.

“When Jim asked me to coach, I did not want to do it,” explained Lachance. “I was reluctant to take the job as coaching female athletes was foreign to me at the time.

“I can’t say enough how that decision to coach these talented athletes was one of the best decisions of my life both professionally and personally.”

Lachance led that 2004 squad to a bronze medal in Edmonton, the first of six world cups medals under his watch including bronze in 2006, 2012 and 2018 and silvers in 2008 and 2016.

He also assembled and managed the squad that won silver at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto where women’s baseball was part of a major, multi-sport games for the first time.

“The growth of women’s baseball has been amazing to witness since 2004 not only in Canada but throughout the world,” said Lachance. “I’m thankful to Jim (Baba) for his belief in me to run the program and am forever grateful to all of the athletes and coaches that given their all for the program over the years.

“The Women’s National Team program is in a terrific place and I’m going to be their number one fan for the rest of my life.”

Not to be forgotten, Lachance was at the forefront of Baseball Canada’s Rally Cap initiation program that began in 2006 and is now enjoyed by thousands of young athletes each and every year.

He has left his fingerprints on many areas of baseball across the country and will still stay close to the international game in roles of Chair, Development Commission with COPABE and as a member of the WBSC Women’s Baseball Commission.

“André has had an immeasurable impact on Baseball Canada at many levels from grassroots programming and coaching and of course the Women’s National Team where his efforts will leave a lasting legacy on the program,” said Baseball Canada CEO Jason Dickson. “André has certainly left Baseball Canada in a better place and has much to be proud of in what he’s accomplished over two decades. We wish him well in his new opportunity and know that he will impact his new workplace in a positive manner.”

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Chris Balison elected as Baseball Canada President

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OTTAWA – Kamloops, British Columbia’s Chris Balison was elected Baseball Canada President last night at a Special General Meeting of the federation’s board of directors and executive committee.

Balison replaces now former Baseball Canada President Jason Dickson who’s held the role since 2016 until becoming Baseball Canada CEO last August.

“I’d like to congratulate Chris on the honour of becoming Baseball Canada President,” said Dickson. “I’ve had the chance to work with Chris in recent years and look forward to continuing that working relationship with the shared vision of the growth and development on baseball in Canada.”

Balison became president of Baseball BC in 2020 where he also assumed a spot on Baseball Canada’s Board of Directors. He is now the 12th president in Baseball Canada’s 58-year history dating back to 1964.

Amateur baseball has been a big part of Balison’s life who spends his working days as a Crown Prosecutor. He became president of Kamloops Minor Baseball in 2014 helping nearly double the association’s registration numbers, while also ensuring the game is inclusive and accessible by establishing local Challenger Baseball and female baseball programs.

“I thank Jason for his contributions as President and look forward to working with him in his new role as CEO,” said Balison. “He’s left big shoes to fill, but I am excited to lead Baseball Canada in our continued pursuit of excellence and innovation.”

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Baseball Canada

“She was a trailblazer,”: Tributes pour in for Amanda Asay

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File photo of Prince George Product Amanda Asay suiting up for Canada on the ball diamond (Photo supplied by Baseball Canada)

By Brendan Pawliw

One of the best athletes to ever come out of Prince George has left us far too soon.

Tributes continue to come in for Amanda Asay who passed away during a tragic skiing accident in Nelson on Friday at the age of 33.

She was the longest-serving member of Baseball Canada’s Women’s National Team program, (16 years) most notably as a dominant pitcher and first baseman.

Jim Swanson was the Sports Editor at the Prince George Citizen from 1997-2014 who says Asay’s success on the baseball diamond was something to behold – even at a young age.

“She was a trailblazer way back then when I became aware of her, especially a girl making an all-star baseball team. Obviously, that was an interesting story back then because it didn’t happen very often if at all, and it still doesn’t happen that much even to this day.”

Asay participated in the Women’s National Team Showcase last summer in Trois-Rivières, Québec.

In addition, she was part of national teams that captured five WBSC Women’s Baseball World Cup medals and also played a key role in Canada’s silver medal performance at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.

Swanson, a former organizer of the World Baseball Challenge in Prince George, believes Asay was a one-of-a-kind athlete.

“For a lack of a better comparison, maybe the Wayne Gretzky of women’s baseball in Canada. She was consistent, she was hard-working, she was a leader, she was looked up to and was outstanding in terms of her play.”

“When you think of it, there are not many athletes that have come out of a great sports town like Prince George that have made the impact on their sport the way Amanda Asay has. Honestly, she may be the greatest athlete to come out of her specific sport in the city of Prince George.”

Andre Lachance coached Asay at the national level as well as internationally since 2005 and stated one performance still stands out to this day.

“The World Cup in 2016, the semi-finals where we played against Taiwan and she pitched a masterful game to allow us to play for the gold medal against Japan right after, is one of the best performances I saw of Amanda.”

“I like to say she was really curious and when you have curiosity you really want to know more about your opponent, always trying to find an edge or a different way to win.”

Asay joined Team Canada as a wide-eyed 17-year-old in 2005 and Lachance recounted her first trip with the team.

“We went to Cuba for the first time and we were stuck in a hurricane. I would imagine that would have been viewed as a rough start when you start your athletic career with the national team.”

Asay also played hockey and softball for Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island for three seasons (2006-2009) while earning a Bachelor’s in Science.

She continued her studies at UBC where she attained a master’s in science and Ph.D. in forestry while playing two seasons for the Thunderbirds hockey team.

Chicago Cubs prospect and fellow PG baseball product Jared Young has nothing but fond memories when describing Asay.

Young told MyPGNow.com while her on-field resume is second-to-none, it was her willingness to develop the next generation of baseball players that should be remembered most.

“She was always doing it out of the goodness of her heart. I probably worked four or five camps with her and she was there before me and she was thereafter me. It kind of speaks to the way she goes about things and it was really cool to see.”

“That’s what makes this so tough. She did so much to help younger kids and to help everybody. I can’t remember Asay ever saying no to any camp or anything like that.”

“That is what is so truly awful about this.”

In 2019, Asay pitched a complete game for Canada during a women’s World Cup qualifying tournament in Mexico.

The revered multi-sport athlete also suited up for the Northern Penguins of the South Coast Women’s Hockey League that same year – lighting the lamp three times in a two-game series against the Ridge Meadow Moose.

“Amanda was a one-of-a-kind teammate, the type of player and person who you loved to compete with every game,” said Ashley Stephenson who played 14 seasons with Asay on the national team and coached her for two. “Under the circumstances, I cannot put into words how tragic this loss is for everyone who knew Amanda. My thoughts at this time and my heart go out to her family.”

 

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