A proud moment for Simcoe minor baseball materialized unexpectedly at the Thames Centre Recreation Complex in Dorchester on Dec. 20.
The complex’s Field of Dreams baseball park is home to the Great Lake Canadians Baseball Club, an elite organization run by former professionals dedicated to developing baseball talent in southern Ontario.
At the club’s annual awards banquet in the complex’s arena, one player each from the Great Lake’s under-14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 teams was invited to the stage as respective nominees for the 2019 Heart and Hustle Award.
Three of them – Hendrik VanDermeer, Adam Leatherland and Caelen Cunningham – are Norfolk high school students. And all three are products of Simcoe minor baseball.
None of the Norfolk reps prevailed. However – within an organization that solicits top talent from across southern Ontario – Simcoe minor baseball was richly represented.
Leatherland – a player with the Great Lake’s under-15 squad – did come away from the banquet with a major prize.
The outfielder and student at Delhi District Secondary School was rewarded for a solid season this fall with the club’s Gold Glove Award. The award is given to the one player on each Great Lake’s team with the best fielding statistics.
“Every kid’s dream is to make it to the big show,” Leatherland said at his home in Simcoe.
“That’s an opportunity I’d like to have and to run with. But right now I’m aiming for a scholarship, to get an education, and play some sports.”
GLCBC is part of a province-wide network of elite baseball organizations dedicated to developing young baseball talent in southern Ontario.
GLCBC boasts seven teams with nearly 120 players. All made the cut through a process of rigorous tryouts. Players are selected on the basis of their big-league potential.
GLCBC’s Heart and Hustle Award goes to the player who not only excels on the field but off as well. The award goes to the player who executes in game situations while giving it his all during practice. The winner is also selected on the basis of his coachability and is a good influence in the dugout and in the club house.
Cunningham – a student at Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Simcoe and also an outfielder — took a big step toward his big league dreams recently when he nailed down a four-year scholarship at Lourdes University in Sylvania, Ohio.
In the fall, Cunningham will begin a four-year pre-med program with an eye to becoming a physician. He doesn’t think it a coincidence that three of Great Lake’s five candidates for the Heart and Hustle Award graduated from the Simcoe Minor Baseball Association.
“It’s about our roots here,” Cunningham said. “We were taught to work hard. Now it’s up to us to take it to the next level.”
Last but not least in the Heart and Hustle sweeps was Hendrik VanDermeer, a 6’ 3” pitcher on the under-14 club with a 75-mile-an-hour fastball. VanDermeer is also a student at Holy Trinity.
“Obviously, you want to go all the way to the majors,” VanDermeer said. “But right now I’m focussing on moving up the ranks with Great Lake Baseball, getting good grades, and hopefully one day getting a good scholarship.”