Longtime Baseball Manitoba executive director retires
By Adam Morissette
The Baseball Manitoba offices in Winnipeg most certainly have a different feel this week with a familiar face missing from his usual spot. An employee for 24 years with the organization and many more years spent playing, coaching and impacting the baseball scene across the province, Morgan de Peña has retired from his post as the organization’s executive director, a spot he’s held since 2000.
A tremendous pitcher in his own right, de Peña ruled the local leagues in Winnipeg as a power arm and soon joined the coaching ranks where his knowledge and experience of the game was soon shared around the province.
In 1984, he began working as a clinician for what was then known as the Manitoba Baseball Association and soon after got involved with their provincial teams that included a Western Canadian championship in 1990.
It was four years later, in 1994 that de Peña started full-time with Baseball Manitoba as technical director and six years later transitioned into the executive director’s role. He retires as one of the longest serving full-time longest amateur baseball employees in the country.
Morgan was kind enough to share some of his favourite memories from his time as executive director (ED), including memories from past Baseball Canada conventions, baseball moments, relationships, his favourite baseball players and what he’ll miss the most.
Baseball Canada would like to thank Morgan for his many years of service to our sport and wish him nothing but the best in his retirement.
Name your two top memories from your time as ED?
It is very hard to pick two top memories, but the people and the friendships are right up there. I have met so many great people throughout the years. Volunteers really are the backbone of any sport organization and we have so many great volunteers in Manitoba, from coaches, to league administrators, to park maintenance helpers, scorekeepers and announcers, and many others who spend countless hours for the game we all love.
I would have to say that the 2017 Canada Summer Games and the 1999 Pan-Am games that Winnipeg hosted were very special, as it was great to see Winnipeg and baseball shine on those stages.
The Baseball Canada conventions provide an annual meeting of amateur baseball staff from across the country. These events provide a chance to see a different part of Canada, share ideas and get to know staff from across the country. What are some memories that stick out to you?
They have all been really good and unique in their own right. That said my favourites would be the two times Saskatchewan had the hypnotist come for the entertainment. It was absolutely hilarious watching then president Ray Carter run around as Smokey the Bear saying “Only you can prevent forest fires,” or Ken Dawe of Newfoundland as “Commander Spiffy” in his space ship, or Jim Baba putting on multiple ties. The stories from those two conventions will be told for years to come.
Favourite all-time baseball player?
My favourite player was Bob Gibson, #45, pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. I grew up a Cardinals fan, and Bob Gibson was “the man” for the pitching staff at that time. I loved his intensity on the mound, and the violent way the fired the ball to the plate. He was my idol and I wanted to pitch like him.
What are your favourite memories from National Championships?
There are three nationals that really stand out for me, though two of them I coached in prior to working at Baseball Manitoba. One was the 1991 Senior Championships in Rimouski, Quebec, where all the wives and girlfriends went along for the trip. I coached the Teulon Cardinals, and we competed well, though we did not make the medal round. It was just a great trip with all the women along. The next was the 1993 Canada Games in Kamloops, where we did make the medal round, but lost very close semifinals and the bronze games. It was a great event that featured several players that went on to play pro ball, including Jason Dickson and Corey Koskie. Lastly was in 2008 when I coached the 16U girl’s team at the nationals in Mascouche, Quebec. My daughter Melanie was on the team, my wife Caroline was a coach, and my son Curtis served as batboy.
You and your staff have accomplished some great things over the years. What’s one that you are most proud of?
It is hard to name just one thing, so I will list a few of them:
1. Creation of the program director position to allow us to better serve our members.
2. The positive, productive relationship we have with our member leagues and associations.
3. How our membership has grown every year for the last eight years.
4. The Challenger Program (mainly driven by Jason Miller, now our ED). While not directly involved, I am proud of the inclusiveness and pure joy it brings to the game.
5. The growth of the female participation in the game provincially and nationally.
6. That over my tenure we were awarded the Baseball Canada Province of the Year award five times.
How has the ED job changed since you started?
There is a lot more paperwork, and computer work, than in the past. Additionally, all the advances in social media have changed the landscape for ED’s and all office staff and boards. It seems that some players and parent’s perspectives have changed. The game used to be played for fun, friends, and competition, and sadly it feels that some of that has changed. Entitlement and expectations are higher, and everywhere you look everyone wants a little more. Sometimes the fun of the game is gone. No longer are there scrub or pick up games, no more kids at the ball park hitting the ball around, and to quote a line from ‘Field of Dreams”, “Do you want to have a catch?” is hardly ever heard anymore.
What’s your favourite baseball park in Manitoba?
There are a number of baseball parks in our province that are favourites - such as Koskie Field in Elmwood where I have seen that park develop the last 43 years, to Andrews Field in Brandon, a showcase jewel in western Manitoba. That said, my favourite park might be the Grand Slam/Mosquito Field in Charleswood at Coy and Hilton Streets where I coached for four years. Not many 11U fields have outfield fences, or if they do, fences that are at the right dimension for the players. This little field nestled in quiet neighbourhood has a forest along the right field side and is the perfect setting for youth baseball.
What are you looking forward to most in retirement?
I am looking forward to following my own schedule, doing some traveling (maybe make my way to all of the Major league parks and maybe even a few minor league parks as well) and camping (a goal of mine would be to camp in all of the national parks in Canada). I will stay involved in baseball, but now I will be doing what I want to do, when I want to do it.
What will you miss most about the job?
I will miss the people I dealt with on a daily basis the most, especially the great staff in the office – Brenda (Horz) and Jason (Miller). Brenda has been with us 16 years, and Jason for eight, and we have formed strong friendships, that I will need to keep going by dropping by from time to time. I will also miss being involved with baseball on a daily basis – being in the know by getting the lowdown on things going on around the province and the country.
Oh, and don’t worry, Morgan will still be found on a baseball diamond this summer as an assistant coach with the 18U Winnipeg South “AAA” Chiefs program!