BTF supports South African Baseball Union

Q&A with Sean Michael Campbell, Athlone Athletics Baseball Club

BTF supports South African Baseball Union

About the South African Baseball Union

The South African Baseball Union, the national baseball federation. The organization partners with the Athlone Athletics Baseball Club, a local competitive baseball club that manages the Vangate Sports Complex. The Athlone Athletics Baseball Club was established in 1991. 

Vangate Sports Complex

Project - The South African Baseball Union, the national baseball federation, and the Athlone Athletics Baseball Club, a local competitive baseball club, constructed the Baseball Indoor Intensive Training Centre in 2010, which features batting cages and other multi-purpose areas. The complex also has two baseball fields, batting cages and a clubhouse serving more than 450 players each year. The primary users of the facility are the Athlone Athletics Baseball Club, the Baseball Association of Western Province and the South African Baseball Union, which manages the national team.

Funding - Funding for the project was provided by the City of Cape Town, the South African Baseball Union, the Athlone Athletics Baseball Club, Giant Sports, NOW IKUSASA Investments, Athlone Sports Development and Management and NCK Draughting. BTF awarded a $209,000 USD grant to the project for the construction of the indoor practice facility.

Construction - The South African Baseball Union had a contractual agreement with Athlone Athletic Baseball Club by means of a Memorandum of Understanding. This understanding outlined how funds will be released to the Athlone, on presentation of work completed by contractors. After significant delays to the project related to municipal funding and approval, the project was completed in 2010.

Field Maintenance - The Athlone Athletics Baseball Club maintains the facility, budgeting $10,000 USD annually.

Q&A with Sean Michael Campbell

Sean Campbell has been involved in sports for over 40 years. Campbell began his sports career at Spes Bona Senior Secondary School, where he represented the school at football, baseball, and squash. He went on to represent various organizations in football and baseball including Cape District Baseball Union, Wolves Baseball Club, Cape Football Association, and Western Province Senior School Sports Union. Throughout his playing career, Campbell received many awards at Junior and Senior level Baseball tournaments in South Africa. Campbell began his coaching career with the Wolves Baseball Club in 1987. From 1992-2010, Campbell coached the Athlone Athletics Baseball Club at junior, senor, and development levels. In addition to his time with the Athlone Athletics, Campbell coached for Western Province and South African Baseball in many international tournaments and was appointed as the assistant Senior Level coach for the World Baseball Classic 2006. Campbell served in administrative roles for various baseball programs and events, including the coordinator for the inaugural MLB African Academy hosted in Cape Town in 2011 and 2012. It is Sean's desire to have a career in the sports industry.

  1. How and when did you get involved or become interested in baseball?

I started to play baseball in 1980s, when I was in secondary school. Since then, I have been actively involved in domestic and international baseball tournaments as a player and coach throughout my career.

Describe your organization's staff structure (i.e. paid staff, volunteers, Board members.) 

Athlone Athletics Baseball Club is managed by a 7-person executive committee comprising of the following portfolios:

Chairperson - Warren Manshon

Vice Chairperson - Lucien Schaeffers

Secretary - Steven Rodkin

Treasurer - Nigel Kerchhoff

Public Relations Officer - Ricardo Khan

Asset Manager - Ken Brandt

Facility Manager - Christopher Campbell

All these individuals as well as any "ad hoc committee members" serve the club and community on a voluntary basis. During 8/1 to 5/30 annually, a "groundsman is employed" to prepare for and maintain during baseball season.

 

  1. Other than your facilities, what other baseball facilities are available in your region?

Baseball as a minor code in South Africa. In the context of South African sport and within the Cape Town Municipality, all municipal facilities have been "declared" multi-coded facilities i.e. shared facilities between summer and winter codes. This has had a huge impact on the 18 baseball clubs within the municipality as they battle for a "dedicated baseball facility." Only three clubs (Durbanville, Bothasig & Athlone A's) have dedicated fields for baseball while only one club (VOB) has floodlights for night games and Athlone A's have 2 skin diamonds and an indoor facility. 80% of these clubs share their facility with either football or rugby i.e. the outfield is used during the winter season and is churned up by baseball season depending on the frequency of usage and the winter rains. These are all community facilities and each club has to develop a maintenance plan for their own costs.

 

  1. What agencies, organizations or companies provide financial support to your organization?

None

 

  1. What agencies, organizations or companies provide other support to your organization? What type of support does each provide?

The City of Cape Town provides minimal maintenance assistance or support to the club in the form of Monthly grass cutting through a "service provider" and povisioning of a "roller" which generally arrives after 15:00 on a Friday afternoon. The club relies heavily on the "voluntary nature, spirit and commitment" of its membership to make ends meet.

 

  1. What was the biggest challenge for your organization during the project?

Having to revise the project time-line due to the following factors

The "indirect impact" of South Africa hosting the 2010 World Cup (the first and largest sporting event in South African history)

The delay in signing of the contract by SABU and their delay in meeting the time-line in the payment schedule resulted in the project being delayed for 2 months.

A further hiccup was the delay in transferring the BTF funds (firstly a cheque and then the EFT) as well as the interest rates further hampered the progress of the facility.

Also, the escalating building cost from the time of application to time of approval by BTF created a huge shortfall.

In summary, given the private public partnership nature of the project, managing and coordinating the payments to the contractor from the donors was the biggest challenge however the lessons learnt through this process has proved to be invaluable and we've been enriched by this experience.

 

  1. What has been the most significant or important accomplishment of your organization?
  • The acquisition of the facility through BTF
  • Increased participation in the schools' baseball league
  • Representation in National Teams
    • 2006 - World Baseball Classic: 5 senior players made SA Team - Carl Michaels, Warren Herman, Ricardo Siljeur, Tyrone Brandt and Sean Campbell (coach)
    • 2009 - World Baseball Classic: 1 senior player made SA Team - Warren Herman
    • 2013 - World Baseball Classic: 3 senior player made SA Team - Carl Michaels, Faizel Moosa and Darren Wedel
    • 2014 - IBAF 15U World Baseball Championship: 2 players - Keagan Davids, Lance Gordon and Roderick Siljeur (HOD)
    • 2015 - IBAF 18U World Baseball Championship: 2 players - Matthew Diedericks and Mogamat Fadiel Moosa (coach)

 

  1. How did the project affect your program?

The unprecedented growth in the school's baseball league

10 participating schools

The "Old School Tournament" - i.e. players of yesteryear come along and "reminisce about the good old days"

The hosting the MLB Academy for African players

The hosting of Baseball & Softball "SHARP Centres"

Sport, Higher Participation and Advancement through Recreation Programmes a Provincial Government initiative.

The hosting of the District High Performance Centre for 15U and 18U players

 

  1. What's next for your organization?

Short Term

  • Install individual player cupboards and seats in the change room
  • Construction of a 10U baseball field that acts as an infield practice field.
  • Expansion of the school's baseball development programme into the neighbouring community of Langa and bonteheuwel.

Medium Term

  • Introduction of the Community Baseball program.
  • Construction of floodlight system on both A and B field.

Long Term

  • Construction of a 10 000 seater stand, inclusive of a scorebox around the A field.
  • Construction of a Baseball School facility with hostel type accommodation as well as a Sport Science testing lab.

 

  1. What message do you have for other baseball organizations in regions where baseball is relatively unknown?

Dream big and "follow" your dreams. Develop a long term baseball strategic development plan that can be accomplished in phases. Keep communicating and engage in dialogue with whomsoever about "the dream." That the adage "Rome wasn't built in a day" is so true and that one would be faced with hiccups, challenges or blockages however their perseverance will carry them through, i.e. "swim around the rock."

Cathy Bradley is executive director of the Baseball Tomorrow Fund. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.