By Melissa Verge
Canadian Baseball Network
Duane Ward is sitting comfortably on a blue stool beside the Toronto Blue Jays dugout.
He’s sporting a goatee and sunglasses, and a T12 shirt.
Once upon a time, 24 years ago, he was playing on this same field, a couple of months away from a World Series win. But now it's September 16, 2017 and he’s here at Tournament 12. He’s no longer playing, but watching young Canadian talent because he loves the game of baseball and he wants to give back.
“The guys who have played the games before me gave back to me, and they instilled upon me that knowledge and experience is not mine to keep, it's mine to pass on,” he says. "I think every former player should give back in some way or form to the next generation, and try to make this game better.”
Ward has been helping out with Tournament 12 since it started in 2013. It's an annual event that showcases the best amateur baseball talent in Canada with college eligibility.
He says the tournament has evolved over the years to become something every young ball player wants to go to.
“It’s a tournament every kid wants to play in. Kids across the country want to be part of Tournament 12 because they know the scouts are going to be here, and some of the best kids across the country will be here,” he says.
Ward spends most of his time during the four-day tournament at the baseball field. He gets up around 5:30 in the morning, and by the time his head hits the pillow its around midnight.
Every year at the tournament he sees that the kids are getting bigger and stronger.
“You see a 15-year-old kid who looks like he’s 25,” he said. “But the game evolves with them too, it gets a little faster, a little bit more power.”
The two-time World Series champion is watching a lot of things from his perch beside the Blue Jays dugout, particularly at what the kids can do pitching wise.
“I want to see which ones have the mechanics and which ones have a lot of upside,” he said.
Ward is working closely at the tournament with some of his former Blue Jays teammates who were with him for the 1992 and 1993 World Series, including Roberto Alomar and Devon White. They’re all here to help the younger generation continue to excel at the game and hopefully get scouted.
“It's always fun to get back together with the old teammates, we still talk baseball with each other, when we get in the locker room we talk about all the stuff we did way back in the ancient times,” he said.
Ward hopes these kids will take some bit of knowledge away from the tournament and bring that knowledge to their next game or practice.
“It never hurts to try something new, you can always go back to your old way but it never hurts to try. It might be better for you, it might not doing anything for you, but try it and listen when guys talk, that’s how you learn,” he said.
The fifth annual Tournament 12 will wrap up tonight at the Rogers Centre. Until then, you may be able to get a glimpse of Ward perched on a blue stool beside the Blue Jays dugout.