Second in B.C. reflects Chuckers' successful development model

By Don Fennell

Published 4:28 PDT, Tue August 1, 2017

On the eve of BC Baseball’s provincial 15U Bantam AAA championships July 27 to 30 at Blundell Park, Richmond City Baseball president John Braaten spoke to the importance of the local association’s multi-faceted mission.

That includes, as part of its player development model, annually submitting to host a provincial championship.

“As our association continues to grow, our belief is to provide opportunities for players to be part of such a special event as this,” he said.

After the dust settled Sunday, Richmond’s Chuckers had made the most of the occasion with a second-place finish, and considerable optimism going forward.

“It was awesome. We played our best baseball of the year for sure,” said Richmond head coach Shawn Hetherington, who was assisted by Jack Thompson and Steve Hepburn.

A 5-2 final-game loss to defending champion Delta Tigers did nothing to change the positivity. In fact, it has only made the Chuckers’ resolve to build upon their run that much greater.

Hetherington said much of the conversation among the coaching staff afterward centered around how much experience the players, most of whom were finishing up only their first year of Bantam, had gained.

“This was a total success, and to lose in the final you learn a lot from that,” Hetherington said. “I think it makes you hungrier for next year.”

Braaten says as part of the Richmond City Baseball Association’s (RCBA) initiative to place greater emphasis on player development, and to provide more opportunities for players wishing that play in a “rep” program, Richmond’s 15U AAA team is directly affiliated with its 15U AA program.The continued goal of this two-team 15U Bantam rep approach is to provide a more focused product, and wider developmental reach.

“Establishing and maintaining a direct relationship between AAA and AA will help first-year players potentially graduate to the AAA program as second-year players,” he says. “In addition, a more performance-oriented AA program will provide a greater developmental platform for second-year players that will aid in their transition from 15U AAA to 18U or College Prep programs.”

RCBA has a standard “mission/vision statement” to provide quality baseball programs for the children and youth of Richmond, and that each enjoy playing the game.

“I have seen first-hand how sports has affected my life, and now feel a big part of our community and hopefully doing something right for the future,” Braaten says. “RCBA is trying to ‘Build Community,’ which was our opening day theme, and is working with community-based programs such as Touchstone and the City of Richmond’s multicultural services to bring new immigrant families into the sport community.

“The Chucker’s family is growing in a day and age where participation in sports is flat or declining in many areas. Our community branding is important and continuing to focus on delivering quality programs within schools, community centres or free events. In the end if our president’s group gets children engaged and participating in activities—it doesn’t have to be baseball, it can be anything—then we have done our job.”

The 2017 Chuckers were: Josh Abraham, Sean Dolphin, Nathan Hikida, Skylar Lehnihan, Daniel Salazar, Nico Cole, Jake Finkelstein, Joey Houston, Kyle Matsunuma, Kyle Dodds-Eng, Kyle Hepburn, Shintara Kawal and Jonathan McGill.

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