By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
The boys of summer are heading south this spring.
Oshawa’s four Elite Baseball League of Ontario teams are participating in spring training tours later this month.
The 15U Legionaires will head to St. Louis, Missouri, where they will train daily at the University of St. Louis baseball facilities, and also play a number of doubleheaders against top area high schools.
Varadero, Cuba will be the destination of the 16U Legionaires.
There the boys will train with and play against a local Cuban club during their stay.
The 17U and 18U Legionaires will fly to the Sunshine State for a week’s stay in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
They will play, train and stay at the former spring training complex of the Houston Astros and Florida Marlins.
While there, both teams will play eight games each against local competitors.
Ken Babcock, president of Baseball Oshawa and coach of the 18U team, says the goal of the excursions is to “take our programs to another level.”
“Not all programs do this but good programs do,” he says. “We want the players to come back with a renewed confidence and a really great experience in baseball and life.”
Babcock says all four teams will be facing high-level competition.
However, while players will be putting their best effort forward, Babcock explains these trips “are not about wins.” For him, the priority is player development and giving youths the “full spring training experience.”
“The players work extremely hard. They are at the diamond first thing in the morning,” he states.
Having a high-quality spring development program is key to Oshawa Baseball’s future.
“It’s something that is really popular, and gives 12-year-old and 13-year-old players in the system something to look forward to,” Babcock says. “It’s exciting to see our top players commit and stay knowing they will be in an elite program.”