Elliott: BC Coaches Caravan reaches hinterlands

 Orv Germaine towers above the youngsters addressing the youngsters as the BC Coaches Caravan rolled into Kelowna. Photo: Tom Katelnikoff.

Orv Germaine towers above the youngsters addressing the youngsters as the BC Coaches Caravan rolled into Kelowna. Photo: Tom Katelnikoff.

By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network

Peter Caliendo does not sing while he works.

Yet, if he did it could belt out a little Johnny Cash diddy “I’ve been every where, Man.”

Caliendo, former USA Baseball National Team Coach and skills development coach, has been all over the world teaching from his home base of Schaumburg, Ill., in his role of president of Caliendo Sports International. Let’s see he’s been to   

Cuba, Mexico City and Italy ...

Holland, Japan and Hong Kong ...

Brazil, Asia, Latin America ...

Australia, Canada, Europe and the Great Lakes region

Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin 

So while he does not sing like Cash he is certainly qualified to comment on what goes on around the globe when it comes to teaching. And after finishing a 15-day, 17-day stop tour of British Columbia he has first hand knowledge of what is going on in BC at the grass roots level.

“This is one of the best programs I have ever seen,” Caliendo said. “We teach parents, players and coaches at grass roots level. I’ve said this numerous times: other teams, organizations, countries need to look at this model that is going on in Canada ... even areas in the US.”

Mike Kelly, who coached former American League MVP winner 1B Justin Morneau and LHP Jeff Francis with the North Delta Blue Jays, along with Ari Mellious, is in charge of setting up the program. Orv Germaine, Grant Reimer, Michael Dagg and Caliendo do the teaching.  

Germaine, who has stood toe-to-toe with former Los Angeles Dodgers great Reggie Smith and been complimented looks after the hitting, Reimer, former winner of both the Hook, Line and Sinker award, as well as the Burial award, instructs on fielding. Daggg teaches base running and Caliendo is the fourth station as the youngsters rotate from one group to another: throwing and catching.

“I really enjoyed the camps, we go to a lot of place where they don’t have that opportunity to get teaching,” Caliendo said. He recalled a trip to Mission which had an “excellent program” and drew 400-to-500 people. 

“The program has real benefits to a lot of smaller communities and they love it when we come to town,” said Caliendo, who is in his fifth year making the trek west from Chicago each spring. The caravan is in its seventh year.  

The purpose of the caravan is also to “educate the parents ... so when they leave they can play a little catch with their son, or field some ground balls to help his fielding get better for the next practice.”

Caliendo also explained to parents “the appropriate way to act at games and how the way a parent acts affects how their children play the games.”

“We explain that sometimes a player does not have a great game -- that is baseball,” Caliendo said. “And how sometimes dads get a little impatient with their sons. How dad’s will flash signals from the stands -- when the other signs are coming from the catcher or the bench.

“We ask why would you want to hurt your child’s ability? If we could all be on the same page it makes it easier.”

Caliendo wears a gold medal from the Team USA Pan Am 16U champs (1992-93-96). It never fails that a youngster will notice the ring and ask “sir, how much does that cost?” Roughly 5,000 people showed up for the 17 events. 

And as always when Kelly drops Caliendo at the airport he thanks him for coming teach the parents and their children “so that can grow up and beat Team USA.”

Now Johnny Cash and Hank Snow had a little bit better range (both vocally and geographically than Caliendo and the caravan) but their song went like this ...  

“I’ve been everywhere, man
I’ve been everywhere, man
Crossed the deserts bare, man
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man
Travel, I’ve had my share, man
I’ve been everywhere

I’ve been to, Boston, Charleston, Dayton

Louisiana, Washington, Houston

Kingston, Texarkana, Monterey

Fairaday, Santa Fe, Tollaperson

Glen Rock, Black Rock, Little Rock

Oskaloussa, Tennessee, Tinnesay

Chickapee, Spirit Lake, Devil’s Lake, Crater Lake.”

* * *
The stopovers on the BC Caravan from the BC Minor web site ...

Osoyoos: BC Baseball the largest provider of grassroots baseball in British Columbia just ended its seventh year of its Baseball Educational Caravan for players, parents, and coaches with its 17th location in 15 days with an outstanding camp in Osoyoos Minor Baseball. There were over 125 very enthusiastic participants at the camp.

One of the top instructors in the caravan and board member for BC baseball Grant Rimer said: “The adults and children who attended the Osoyoos Minor ball were so excited that we returned to host the caravan in their community. They have taken what they learned in the past and applied it to their daily coaching and development of their players. This is a great community that continues to work in the right ways to increase the participation of their grass roots program”.

All the associations to host the caravan said it has helped in the development of the grass roots level of the game. By educating the players, parents and coaches they have seen more development in the player’s skills, confidence and the fun they are having playing the game. Because of the BC Baseball Caravan and the success of the Toronto Blue Jays they have all seen an increase in participation

Host instructor for the BC Baseball Caravan, former USA national team coach Peter Caliendo is in his fifth year working with the BC Baseball instructors says, “I continue to be amazed at the excitement, participation, and implementation of all the skills being taught at the caravan. By far this is one of the best developmental programs at the grass roots level that I have seen anywhere in the world. This program should be copied by countries and baseball organizations all over the world. BC Baseball truly understands that parents, players and coaches development is vital to the growth of the game at the grass roots level”

* * *
Kelowna, Central Okanagan Minor Baseball: As the BC Baseball Caravan came to its second to last of its 15 day 17 location tour in Kelowna it saw an had outstanding turnout with over 415 participants.

The event began with instructors talking to parents and coaches about:

1) The basics fundamentals of the game so they can help teach it at home to their kids.

2) How to select and take care of your equipment. 

3) How important it is to act properly at games by only cheering.

4) Supporting your coaches by teaching their kids the same things the coaches teach at practice.

5) How important it is to let kids know that failure is part of the game, it will happen, that the most important thing is how they deal with it.

6) What to say when the game is over and a player had a tough game: “I loved watching you play”

At the same time the players were being taken through a dynamic fundamental skill workout.

One of the parents said “I cannot believe how much great information we received and I am not sure how I am going to remember it all because it was so good.” One way is to listen to the podcast as the coaches on the caravan are interviewed on what they are teaching at each station.

Matt Nye, Vice President of COMBA: “I’d like to reiterate our appreciation for allowing us to once again host the annual BC Baseball Coach Caravan. Between the two groups, we had about 415 people attend which, I believe, represents a big increase over last year. Word has gotten out that this is a valuable session for coaches and players alike to attend and a great way to start the baseball season.

“As always, the instructors were excellent and everyone came away learning something new and the kids all had a lot of fun. In fact, I began receiving an e-mail within minutes of the end of the sessions thanking us for hosting the caravan.

“Thanks again for coming to Kelowna and helping us in growing the sport at the grass roots level. We’re already looking forward to next year.”

Revelstoke: BC Baseball, British Columbia’s largest grass roots baseball program continues its player, parent and coaches caravan by making another stop at Revelstoke, one of the newest locations of the caravan. What a great turn out with over 110 participants who worked really hard.

One of the parents said, “they loved how the coaches are so enthusiastic and are a great example for show how coaches need to be at their practices so that enthusiasm carries over to the players.”

‎Mandy McQuarrie‎, president of RMBA and her staff worked really hard to have a great turnout, the result was outstanding. The President and her staff did an outstanding job getting the word out about the program and the result was a great turnout. 

The caravan had a strong turnout of girls playing in Revelstoke, which is excellent for Baseball Canada’s Women’s National team. The team continues to do a great job internationally as a result of the grass roots development in BC Baseball.

Mandy McQuarrie, RMBA President: “Hi Mike. Just wanted to let you know we really appreciate the efforts of BC Minor traveling up to Revelstoke to spend time with our players. We have been requesting this for two years and are so happy it finally happened. You can definitely put us on your annual schedule as we will have you back anytime! We were very pleased with the turnout. We have 78 players registered with our association this year and 75% of registered players attended the caravan. We also had a great show of support from parents and coaches. This is the first year in over a decade that Revelstoke has had a peewee team; it’s small but mighty! We are slowly re-building minor ball in our tiny community and are pleased that BC Minor can support us. Thanks again for your efforts. They are appreciated.”

* * *
Salmon Arm: The BC Baseball Parents, Coaches and Players Caravan, the largest grass roots development program in British Columbia continues its educational program with another great turnout in Salmon Arm with over 135 participants.

We also had the pleasure to have with us a surprise guest and outstanding coach in Canada who lives in Salmon Arm come out to the camp, former Seattle Mariners area scout, college coach and current Baseball Canada NCCCP Clinician, Pat Phelan. He was there to observe and lend his expertise to the participants and was thrilled to see the excitement of the players and how the parents and coaches interacted with the BC Baseball instructors.

The BC Baseball Caravan is the largest grass roots development program in British Columbia and has been going on for seven years. Throughout this time the program has seen association and caravan numbers increase. “I have been here since the beginning of the caravan and it is great to see how the associations have worked so hard making sure we have some outstanding turnouts. To see the excitement of the participants makes us feel good that we are doing this program. It has been beyond what we thought it should be and It has helped all associations increase the number of participants playing the game at the grass roots level,” said Mike Kelly, head of the caravan and a board of director of BC Baseball

A Salmon Arm parent e-mailed: “I wanted to pass along a huge thank-you for hosting the Coaches Caravan yesterday. My son and husband could not stop talking about it last night and raved about how great it was. What an awesome way to kick off the season! Thanks again!” Jackie, Kirk, & Fin.

* * * 
Mission: Dan Williams, President, Mission Minor Baseball e-mailed _ “Hi Mike ... On behalf of the close to 500 players and parents that attended the Coaches Caravan I would like to thank BC Baseball for supporting this grass roots initiative. You guys do a fantastic job at engaging players while educating the parents on expectations and how to be a fan. It is so satisfying to have our program validated and watch the buy-in from parents on the message being promoted. Outcomes are never part of the discussion; it is all about process and allowing players to have success without the stress of parental or league pressure. Coaches love the fun approach to the skills of the game. Players go home happy and raring to get going as soon as they can. This is what youth sport should be so we can nurture the athletic abilities of our athletes without having them lose the love for the game. Please thank your coaches on behalf of all the players, parents and coaches for doing a great job. Mission Minor Baseball will be asking for the Coaches Caravan to make our park a stop on your tour for many years to come.”

* * *
Prince George: The President of Prince George Minor Baseball had this to say about the Caravan stop in Prince George last night. “We had another amazing turnout to the Coaching Caravan put on by BC Baseball here in the North. With this being the second year the caravan has stopped in Prince George - we are thrilled that BC Baseball offers the opportunity to associations to participate in this amazing event. The dedication to help improve and develop the skills and abilities is apparent among the five coaches that run the caravan. Mike, Grant, Orville, Pete and Michael are passionate about the sport and teaching/sharing their knowledge with the players/parents/coaches. Over 375 players, parents and coaches participated in two groups from Tadpole to Midget. The feedback I have received is nothing but positive. Everyone involved had fun, and were happy to gain some new skills/drills to implement as our season moves forward. PGYBA is already looking forward to the Caravan return visit next year.”

* * *
Port Coquitlam: The first of two BC Baseball Caravan camps were held for players, parents and coaches was in Port Coquitlam. With a constant rain we had 175 brave participants enjoy a fun day of educational baseball at the grass roots level. Everyone involved learned from some of the best instructors in BC Baseball and had lots of fun doing it. Coaches and parents were able to rotate to each station with the kids to listen, watch and participate in the team drills. 

* * *
Lake Cowichan: BC Baseball, the largest provider of grass roots baseball in British Columbia continues a very successful player, parent, coaches caravan in Lake Cowichan with over 225 participants. It was a beautiful day in Lake Cowichan were the caravan included many girls of all ages. There was even an exchange student from Spain who participated at the event.

This is BC Baseballs seventh year in holding the caravan that has seen a major increase in numbers of participants. This strong program has also seen an increase in players playing the game. BC Baseball is dedicated to the development of the grass roots level along with making sure that players continue to play the game at all levels.

It was a pleasure and so much fun being with all the participants in Lake Cowichan. 

* * *
Salt Spring Island: Once again the BC Baseball travelling coaches Caravan has been a huge hit with our association. Despite a less than rosy weather forecast, over 325 players, parents and coaches showed up for an inspirational night. The focus on involving parents in the game, and teaching them how to work with their children on the basics of baseball is such an important part to the ongoing growth and success of our little association. Year after year Mike and the crew deliver a night that is talked about throughout the season.

On behalf of the players, coaches and parents of Salt Spring Island Minor Baseball Association, our thanks to BC Baseball for this great program.

* * *
Comox Valley: Though riddled with a bout of heavy rain, this didn’t stop the players, parents and coaches of the Comox Valley from making the most of their stop on the BC Baseball Coaches Caravan tour. Fighting through the weather, the kids of were both attentive and excited to learn, improve and develop their skills and abilities in the game of Baseball. 

It was a great turn out by the Comox association in constant rain. It shows the commitment and dedication of the league, parents, coaches and players for being out there through all the rain and really enjoying it. The kids were very attentive and were so excited about being at the camp. The parents and coaches were there the whole time listening and watching each station. Keep up the great work at Comox.

Discussed with the parents two important points. One, let kids the play the game on their own and do not try and coach them during games or practices. If you are working with them at home that is a good time to do some coaching. Also, let them be responsible by packing their own equipment bag, carry their own bags and if they forget something then they are responsible, that is how they learn.

We talked to several parents and players who said they have been there for four years and are always learning something to help them have fun and develop their baseball skills. A player said he watches coach Caliendo’s instructional DVDS. The kids really did a great job and you can see the passion they have for the game. Special thanks to the BC Baseball Coaches for keeping up their excitement and dedication through 3 straight hours of rain.

* * *
Campbell River: The BC Coaches Caravan stopped in Campbell River for the fourth year in a row. Campbell River Minor Baseball enjoys what BC Baseball does to assist in the development of the game for their players and every year looks forward to the Caravan coming back to town. CRMBA continues to have big groups for the caravan and BC Baseball loves the opportunity to work with the local kids. Some of the kids attending this year have been attending since they were six years old and four years later you can already see a large improvement in their skills and abilities. Both the league and the coaches have done a great job with the development of these kids.

Some of the ideas that were shared with parents by the coaches at this year’s clinic were:

One, let the kids play the game on their own and do not try and coach them during games or practices. If you are working with them at home that is a good time to do some coaching. 

Two, let them be responsible by packing their own equipment bag, carry their own bags and if they forget something then they are responsible, that is how they learn.

A good example of how Baseball is growing in Campbell River was exemplified in a meeting with local High School teacher Mark Lagos, who has been teaching his students to make bats in the Wood Shop on the wood lathes.

The BC Baseball Caravan takes pride in building and improving the sport of Baseball in every community, and to see the growth of baseball in Campbell River is a great example of the Success of our development programs. 

* * *
Nanaimo: The 175 plus players that attended had lots of good things to say about the Coaches Caravan’s as it continued onto Vancouver Island where it will make stops every day for the next week. One young player summed it up saying: “The coaches were so much fun, they taught me the right way to throw and catch a baseball, along with running the bases. They made the camp so much fun that it went to fast. I had a lot of fun.”

The feedback has been 100% positive over the first five days. Including this e-mail from Nanaimo Minor Baseball President Michael Holyk: “Just a quick note of thanks to the instructors from the BC Baseball Coaching Caravan, Grant, Orville, Pete, Young Mike and organizer Mike Kelly. We had 100 players and parents over two groups from Tadpole through Pee Wee participate last evening at Dover Bay Secondary School. NMBA very much appreciates BC Baseball’s strong commitment to grass roots baseball in our community and the rest of the province.”

* * *
Tsawwassen: The Coaches Caravan rolled into Tsawwassen. Former President of Baseball Canada Ray Carter was there and he continues to be amazed at how good the instructors are with all the different age groups. Carter also took time out from his schedule for a podcast. Also the communication with the parents and coaches who have been rotating with the groups. He could not believe how much positive feedback he received from the coaches and parents at the event.

The hitting area of the camp was very impressive because the instructors use plastic Wiffle ball bats which allow the players to swing properly, hitting a lot of soft balls. This, in turn, allows the body to control the bat and then when you place the real bat in their hands now the body can control that bat because it understands the proper movements. Instead of starting with the real bat and having that bat controlling the body.

John Forbes, president of Tsawwassen e-mailed: “I wanted to express our thanks for being given the opportunity to host the Coaches Caravan yesterday afternoon in Tsawwassen. We had tremendous turnout from our Rally Cap, Tadpole, Mosquito and Pee Wee divisions. Parents, coaches, and players all took part in the instruction given and the feedback I received from parents and coaches was nothing but positive. The highlight of the afternoon and the most impactful to the parents was the talk about encouraging and cheering on your child when they are playing and focus on being positive. Simply telling your child on the way home that you love watching them play baseball is all you really need to say. I want to thank the coaches involved and to Mike Kelly for organizing and making this event happen. It is an event we would very much like to host again next season.”

* * *
North Shore II: Mountain View High School was the scene of the second BC baseball Coaching Caravan stop in North Van. For the second night in a row over 110 players turned out for the clinic, plus many coaches and parents. The focus on skill development and enjoying the game of baseball continued. Players were introduced to many fielding drills for the first time. The improvement in the short time at the clinic was very impressive. Players were learning and having a ton of fun at the same time.

One of the major talks with the parents and coaches is not to instruct when players are playing, cheer, be positive and encourage. On the way home let the players know you loved watching them play. If they ask you for advice, give it, if not wait till the next day to give advice. Only stress the positive things they did well. This is a game where there are lots of failures and we need to reinforce the things they do well. Then add a one or two things they need to improve on. Always be honest with them.

North Shore I: With BC Baseball welcoming one of our newest association’s North Shore Minor Baseball the traveling roads how stopped in for the first of two nights.

The first night brought upwards of 200 players, coaches and their parents for an evening of instruction. In speaking to many parents and participants they commented on how the caravan staff were very knowledgeable and kept the clinic running smoothly and efficiently. All thoroughly enjoying their time.

The North Vancouver group of players, parents and coaches saw players with a lengthy attention span. Respect for the coaches was outstanding. Parents learned a lot of drills they can do with their kids at home and coaches saw warm up drills they can use prior to practices that works on skills and warms the players up in a fun way. Parents mentioned that it was a great program and they hoped we continue to do it each year.

Jacquie Griffiths. co-President of North Shore Minor Baseball forwarded an e-mail from a parent: “Hi there, I just wanted to touch base and thank you for organizing this for us. It was awesome and really helped my husband and I (new baseball parents) to learn some great teaching techniques. My son had a great time as well. Thanks”

BC Baseball would like to thank North Shore Baseball for hosting the Caravan and will see you tonight at Mountain View High School.

* * *
White Rock: Spring has begun, the grass is clear of snow and the new season is just around the corner. It’s that time of year again where associations are waiting for the first sounds of “Play Ball!”

BC Baseball is coming off another successful Coaching Conference with the largest attendance to-date with over 300 coaches and 200 players, Western Canada’s largest annual event, held at the Langley Events Centre.

The organization is the largest and leading provider of baseball in British Columbia and is extremely proud of our programming efforts to our grass roots coaches, players and families.

This is the seventh year of BC Baseball’s “Traveling Caravan” and is about to embark on a cross province tour of 15 different communities from Vancouver Island, Lower Mainland, Okanagan and far north as Prince George. The Caravan team is comprised of Peter Caliendo, Grant Rimer, Orville Germaine, Michael Dagg and Mike Kelly.

The initial stop was in White Rock where many players, coaches and parents attended the sessions. It is hoped that it will lay the foundation for a successful and productive season for thousands of kids and adults across the province.

And then there was another verse of Johnny Cash’s old song ... 

“I’ve been everywhere, man
I’ve been everywhere, man
Crossed the deserts bare, man
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man
Travel, I’ve had my share, man
I’ve been everywhere

I’ve been to,

Louisville, Nashville, Knoxville

Omerback, Shereville, Jacksonville

Waterville, Costa Rock, Richfield

Springfield, Bakersfield, Shreveport

Hakensack, Cadallic, Fond do Lac

Davenport, Idaho, Jellico

Argentina, Diamondtina, Pasadena, Catalina.”