The Toronto Blue Jays will host a free youth baseball clinic in Nelson in May in tribute to a local coach and member of the national women’s team who died in a ski accident in January.
The event, to be held on May 15 at Queen Elizabeth Park, coincides with a celebration of life planned for Amanda Asay that weekend and will bring a number of Blue Jays coaches to town.
Nelson Baseball Association president J. Stewart, who coached alongside Asay last year and recently took over as head of the organization, says the Jays approached them about putting on the clinic to remember Asay.
“They wanted to do something to honour her name aligned with baseball, which she was very passionate about,” he says. “We thought this would be a great opportunity to bring those things together.”
Stewart says while the details are still being worked out, they are “humbled and honoured” to have been asked.
He expects they will have room for 75 to 100 players to take part and want to prioritize getting girls involved. He says they are reaching out to other baseball associations in the West Kootenay.
“We want to introduce girls to the game. We want to give them an avenue to learn and to be trained by really skilled instructors through the Jays and the national women’s team,” he says.
“We also felt it was important for healing. A number of players were profoundly impacted by Amanda in a very positive way, and you can imagine what her passing also represents.
“So we want those teammates who were coached by Amanda to come together and have some time to remember her and play together and apply some of the values Amanda taught some of our young players.”
Stewart coached alongside Asay during a short fall ball season last year. While he has been involved with coaching little league for over a decade, he says he has met no one else who possessed Asay’s “baseball knowledge, skill, and ability.”
“The way she was able to communicate that to young players in a really true and meaningful way is something I will take with me for however long I coach and am involved with youth baseball,” he says.
“Her ability to hold the complete attention of 12, 13, and 14 year old boys, to have them hanging on her every word, is not an easy thing. She could see technical details in players’ games that I am certainly not at that level of coaching or experience. She had a profound impact in every single possible way, from the parents to the players to the coaches.
“She was a brilliant coach, a wonderful person, and a great, great teammate.”
Stewart says the Nelson Baseball Association has eight girls in its program, which represents a leap forward from six years ago, when there was only one. He says it is an area where the organization needs to grow.
“I would like to take some concerted time, energy, and effort to grow the girls’ game in the West Kootenay. I’m hoping something like this, born from an unfathomable tragedy, could turn into something positive. Amanda would feel very good about that.”
The clinic continues a fruitful relationship between the Nelson Baseball Association and the Blue Jays, who provided $117,000 to refurbish Queen Elizabeth Park through the Jays Care Foundation.
However, the clinic came about because of the Jays’ relationship with the national women’s team. When he first talked to the club about it, Stewart says they had not realized the previous connection. Midway through the conversation, Stewart asked: “You guys do recognize that the Jays Care Foundation has invested in our ball field?”
“It’s incredible how the pieces fit together,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to see the work they did put into operation.”
Registration details have not yet been announced, but Stewart says they are already seeing a lot of interest.