GREG HAMILTON, CHRIS REITSMA & ADAM STERN ADDRESS iCASE PLAYERS IN FLORIDA
St. Petersburg, Florida – The iCASE Baseball Academy closed out its final day in Florida by watching Team Canada play the Detroit Tigers at Al Lang Stadium, followed by some outstanding interaction with coaches Greg Hamilton, Adam Stern and Chris Reitsma after the game.
Hamilton, the GM of Canada’s National Team programs as well as field manager of the 18u National Youth Team, expressed pleasure in meeting “another appreciated member of Canada’s baseball family” and spoke at length to the iCASE student-athletes about how to take their game to the next level. He explained the concept, role and plan for the 2014 National Youth Team, and how its priority was 95% development.
“When we get to the World Cup in the Fall, winning will be our mission over that ten day period,” explained the Princeton grad who has been involved with Team Canada for more than 20 years now.
“But the rest of the time, we are trying to teach these youngsters how to travel, how to pack a bag, how to deal with playing in foreign countries, deal with new time zones, different climates, cultures, languages, religions, foods, etc., because even the most talented player is not useful to us if he can’t bring his game across the globe. We need to find that out now rather than putting him on the senior team’s roster knowing that he’s likely going to fail.”
Hamilton wished the iCASE program, which stands for the International Canadian Academy of Sports Excellence, a bright future and long-term growth. iCASE is a full-time student-focused baseball academy based out of Stratford Northwestern Secondary School in partnership with the Avon Maitland District School Board.
Ex-Major Leaguer Adam Stern, the fleet centre fielder who single-handedly led Team Canada to arguably its biggest win in history, when Canada took down Team USA in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, then addressed the iCASE players, and emphasized the need to stay relaxed and have fun while playing the game of baseball, regardless of the inherent pressure of what today’s game might mean.
“It is easy for me to say, but I’m telling you, it is impossible for you to play your best baseball if you are uptight and afraid to make a mistake,” said Stern, who was a single short of the cycle in that memorable game in Phoenix, including an inside-the-park homerun, along with three highlight catches at the wall.
“Only players who are able to stay relaxed, not get too high, not get too low, are capable of having a peak performance,” said Stern, who now operates Canada’s top indoor training facility, Centre Field Sports, in London, Ontario.
The visit with Team Canada ended with former Major League pitcher Chris Reitsma speaking to the iCASE group. iCASE field manager/GM Tom Valcke introduced Reitsma and told the iCASE players his life story, something Valcke knew quite well given that he was the scout who first discovered the Calgary youngster back in 1993. Valcke explained to the group how Reitsma’s life would appear to be one that was nothing but roses, but that he had learned to deal with adversity at a very young age, and those hurdles gave him a unique perspective on what is truly important in life.
Reitsma was on the mound in Ancaster, Ontario in 1994 when his friend and teammate, left fielder Matt Krol, was struck and killed instantly by a bolt of lightning following a rain delay. A fifteen year-old at the time, it was Reitsma who rallied his teammates to finish the Canadian Championship they were playing in versus pack it in and go home, because “Matt would have hated it if we did that.”
Reitsma’s outstanding career as a Major League pitcher didn’t come easy either, having endured five arm surgeries.
“Chris was just a kid when I first met him, and I remember writing the words ‘apple pie’ on his scouting report,” recalled Valcke.
“But I knew off the bat that this was a special person, and a guy who I not only believed had major league potential, but a person who I wanted to befriend. We have stayed in touch over he past 20 years and he hasn’t changed a bit, other than the fact that he is no longer a kid, but now a proud father who continues to give back to baseball in Canada by coaching in Alberta, and being at Greg Hamilton’s beckon call when needed.”
Reitsma emphasized to the iCASE players not to get flustered over a bad call or an error, because they’re playing the game of baseball, they are blessed with the talent and good health to do so, and because the sun always comes up the next day.
This concluded the iCASE Spring Break training trip to Florida, and it couldn’t have ended in a better way.