Baseball Canada chief has deep local roots

Written by Kevin Mitchell

August 7, 2014

Baseball Canada director general Jim Baba, right, talks with Walt Burrows of the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureauat Cairns Field in Saskatoon on Wednesday. Baba is in Saskatoon for this week’s Baseball Canada Cup

Jim Baba’s summers used to revolve around the ballyards in Moose Jaw.

That’s where he grew up, and it’s there that baseball meshed with his heart and mind, leading to his current job as Baseball Canada’s director general. Today, hanging on Baba’s basement wall, is a picture of Ross Wells Park — the pretty and iconic Moose Jaw baseball diamond that’s spawned a million stories.

“My dad was a baseball nut,” Baba — in Saskatoon for this week’s Baseball Canada Cup — says of Farris Baba, a well-known Moose Jaw baseball figure.

“He loved the sport. Mom liked scorekeeping … the whole family was involved. That passion rubbed off on me.

“Any weekend in Moose Jaw, there’s a tournament on. We were there, it seemed, 24 hours — your parents were working at the booth, or umpiring, or something else, and you hung around there the whole time.”

Baba became a pretty good player as the years went on, playing on a Moose Jaw Little League senior team that took silver at nationals, winning a Saskatchewan Major Baseball League batting title as a teenager, and playing collegiately in Yakima, Wash. where he also won a batting crown. He competed at nine Canadian senior championships.

He also turned into an elite coach, and he caught the eye of Baseball Canada when he piloted Saskatchewan to a silver medal at the 1989 Jeux Canada Games.

He went on to coach the national senior team before moving into an administrative role.

Baba now holds the Baseball Canada’s top job, and also serves as chair of the International Baseball Federation’s tournament commission.

“I’m pretty lucky,” Baba says. “I’ve been around the world and a lot of places in Canada watching baseball, seeing different age groups whether it’s our bantams, our peewees, our senior men. I’ve seen a lot of development.”

Baba says he’s happy with the current state Canadian baseball; that he’s proud of the organization’s grassroots programs and with a coaching-development program that’s caught the eye of other sports looking for a model.

The fruit from those labours can be seen this week at Saskatoon’s Cairns Field.

“Jim’s the reason I’m here today,” says Saskatchewan Baseball high-performance director Greg Brons, who is coaching the home-province entry at this week’s Baseball Canada Cup. “I had the opportunity to play under him, to coach with him, to be mentored by him. If it wasn’t for Jim, I don’t think I’d be here.

“I firmly believe Baseball Canada is where it is today because of the leadership of Jim Baba. He cares about everybody. It doesn’t matter who you are; he respects what you do. Whether you’re a major league scout or a grassroots coach, Jim’s interested in what you do.”

Canada Cup action resumes today at 8:30 a.m. with Prince Edward Island taking on New Brunswick at Leakos Field. Saskatchewan plays twice today at Cairns Field — at 10:30 a.m. against Newfoundland/Labrador, and at 7:30 p.m. against Nova Scotia.