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July 14, 2024 July 14, 2024

Inequality in youth baseball

Posted on July 5, 2024 by Taber Times

By Cal Braid
Taber Times
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Province’s June 18 announcement of funding for the Every Kid Can Play program sparked our recall of a May 1 Times story from Dale Tilleman, a former ball player and high performance coordinator with the Alberta Amateur Baseball Council (AABC). Tilleman has made petitions and pitches to local MLAs and Minister of Sport and Tourism, Joseph Schow, hoping to draw attention to the inequality that exists in youth baseball programs throughout the province. In the article, he made a case for rural baseball programs that get the short shrift by Baseball Alberta, the entity that receives government funding for youth baseball in the province.

Tilleman’s story is indirectly related to the Every Kid Can Play program, which is now offering community-level non-profits up to $25,000 and provincial-scope non-profits up to $100,000 per organization per year for programs. The similarity between Tilleman’s story and the Every Kid Can Play program is government funding. He sees an uneven distribution of money and opportunity and has gone to great lengths to rectify the problem. 

He claimed the AABC has shown a disregard for the present provincial sport guidelines and documented how the current governance of the AABC leaves rural and smaller baseball programs underfunded. He argued that the playing field is not level and rather than being provincial in scope, it is regional, and more specifically, urban.

“If they’re putting on the Alberta uniform, it should be based on merit, not affiliation and geography,” he said.

In a letter to Minister Schow, he said, “The present AABC board has come up short regarding  fairness to players and coaches, accountability in respect to results at national tournaments, and disregard for the present provincial sport organization guidelines. As well, the motivation of some present members, especially Baseball Alberta and Little League Alberta reps, is to protect their turf as opposed to what is best for Alberta youth baseball.”

Under the AABC, the four associations operating youth baseball in the province are Baseball Alberta, Little League Alberta, the American Legion League, Babe Ruth League and Collegiate Baseball. Tilleman said the last he checked, the AABC was funded by the province to the tune of about $230,000 per year.

A couple of weeks after the May 1 Times article, Tilleman sent an update that said, “I did have a MLA contact me. She asked that I forward emails of others who have contacted the minister’s office, wanting change to Alberta youth baseball governance. She had talked to the minister previously regarding the issue, but he referenced it as spat between myself and Baseball Alberta (and to a lesser degree Little League Alberta). I believe his office staff, because of their past ‘handsoff’ approach, have tried to convince him of that assumption.”

Again, the Every Kid Can Play initiative is a different funding stream, but Tilleman’s story pointed out that publicly funded baseball associations may lack oversight from the province once the money is in hand. He shared documents and emails that both backed up his claim and revealed a ‘pass the buck’ mentality in terms of fiscal responsibility from the province and the associations. That doesn’t mean that the problem is ubiquitous among all youth sports programs, but it does point out the potential for inequality. 

Government grants clearly go a long way in enabling a wide variety of initiatives, but as Tilleman pointed out, the effectiveness of those initiatives is best measured by the extent of their reach and impact.

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