Ever since her father took her to see a baseball game at Royal Athletic Park at the age of three, Helen Edwards has been hooked on the sport.
The lifelong baseball and longtime HarbourCats fan and her husband, John, were mainstays in the Victoria stands. When John died in 2020, Helen wanted to do something to honour his legacy.
That’s why she contributed to the indoor baseball facility at 1821 Cook St., now called the Edwards Family Training Centre.
“I’m really excited that we have local kids, coming out of this (facility), that are going to play for the HarbourCats,” Edwards said at the centre’s official opening on April 7. “Anything that has kids and sport together, that’s what I support.”
The HarbourCats and collegiate Golden Tide will train at the site, while almost 300 young athletes have used the centre since it first opened in the fall of 2020. The official unveiling was put off due to the pandemic.
The turfed facility has multiple batting cages and pitching tunnels, a fitness area and the latest in tech and digital analysis equipment, such as a simulator that shows how a hit in the batting cage would translate out on a real diamond.
“It’s just outstanding that this is here,” said Jim Swanson, managing partner of the HarbourCats. “This is just a gamechanger for the community.”
Swanson said he would’ve focused on baseball instead of hockey if the training site existed when he was a teen.
“I would have been here, taking swings until I had callouses on my hands,” Swanson said.
The training centre fills a void where local kids lack options for where they could hone their skills, said Curtis Pelletier, general manager of the HarbourCats and Golden Tide. He said it’s a massive step for local baseball, with kids now able to train year-round.
“It already is (a baseball town) and it’s going to keep growing,” Pelletier said.
The facility offers six-month memberships for kids looking to improve all aspects of their game. Along with 13 staff ready to coach the kids, the facility will also use analytics to zero in on where individual athletes can improve their swing speed or throwing velocity.
The HarbourCats have signed 11 local players for the upcoming season. Pelletier said the facility’s goal is to help Greater Victoria youth develop so they can play for local teams and strive to crack college or pro leagues. But the key to that is players working on their skills as much as they can, Pelletier said.
“The motto here is ‘Do a little bit a lot.’”
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