Borden-Carleton’s Big Cat T-ball coach Andrew MacKay and his son Thatcher.
BORDEN-CARELTON - It started as a pipe dream for Andrew MacKay and Brian Duffy.
The two fathers wanted their children to experience playing ball at a young age, but with nothing offered for kids so inexperienced, it seemed impossible.
What started as an idea became a Facebook post, then a flyer at a convenience store, next there was registration, and finally a T-ball team was formed.
To MacKay and Duffy’s surprise, there was significant interest from parents in the communities of Borden-Carleton and Kinkora about signing their four-year-olds up for T-ball last year.
“We wanted to bring ball back,” said MacKay. “It died out in recent years and getting young kids involved could give the sport new life.”
The original idea was to have one team the dad’s would co-coach, but an overwhelming amount of children wanting to play changed the plans.
“Last year we had to turn kids back because we already had a team filled,” said MacKay. “It was really hard to say no.”
Not wanting to deliver bad news again, the pair came up with a plan to allow all youth in the game.
“We made a second team. That was the only way we could fit everyone on a roster.”
Now several months into the second year, Borden’s Big Cat T-ball team and the Kinkora Terriers are on a role.
Duffy has spread out and coaches the Terriers; MacKay has remained coach of the Big Cats.
“These are five-year-old kids, I didn’t expect much, but I’m surprised every time I see them play,” said Duffy.
The coach realizes competitive games are years down the road and homeruns might even be longer, but until then he wants to teach whenever possible.
“In the beginning the kids would hit the ball and chase after it instead of running to first base,” laughed Duffy. “Even though it was challenging I always knew they would catch on … eventually.”
But you have to start somewhere - and ask any coach - the earlier the better.
MacKay and Duffy got involved with baseball at a young age, often playing on the same team. They wanted that same experience for their sons.
“We grew up playing together so we wanted our boys to grow up playing together too,” said Duffy. “As we got older the game took us across Canada and even to international competition.”
MacKay and Duffy said they wouldn’t be able to run the teams without help from the community and other coaches.
“Greg [Paynter], Art [MacDonald], Adam [Gaudet], Jason [Hughes] and the locals who allow us to use the ball fields are why this is possible.”
Most of the players aren’t even in elementary school yet – Duffy said the only direction these teams can travel is up.
“We’ll keep hitting balls and having fun out there. Someday, when they’re ready, we’ll play competitively.”