Mining diamonds in the rough
Major league scout visits Kivalliq

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

RANKIN INLET (July 07/99) - It may seem like a long way from the bright lights of a major league baseball diamond to the barren tundra, but, for baseball scout Andy Boehm, the message to young players is the same around the country -- just have fun.

Boehm, from Portage la Prairie in Manitoba, is a recommending scout for the National Baseball League's Atlanta Braves who has always had a love for baseball. He's been conducting players and coaches clinics with the Manitoba Baseball Association for the past six years.

"I've got three children now and I introduced them to baseball about five years ago," says Boehm. "I've coached them ever since and, I guess, that's probably what started me into the player clinics and coaching kids baseball."

Boehm says a recommending scout is, basically, a bottom line scout. His responsibility to the Braves' organization is in the Manitoba area. Boehm scouts for players who may have skills worth developing and, when he finds them, passes their names along to senior scouts in the organization.

"When we talk about skills, we're talking about raw tools like running speed, strength, power and hitting or fielding ability. If I see a player who I feel may have the potential to someday help the Atlanta Braves, I get the information to my supervisors, and we take it from there."

Boehm says now that Canadian kids get a lot of baseball stations on TV, they mimic the players earlier and have developed more of an interest in the game. He says 10 or 20 years ago in Canada, all kids saw on TV was hockey. They watched all their buddies play hockey and, someday, they hoped to be hockey players.

"Now they're starting to see a lot of Canadian baseball players make it to the major leagues and there's hope for some kids that someday they may play Major League Baseball. Then you have someone like Larry Walker of Maple Ridge, B.C., who not only makes the majors, but is probably one of the more premier players in the game.

"If a kid from Maple Ridge can do it, why couldn't a kid from Rankin Inlet do it?"

Boehm says coaches and players at the minor levels, especially those just beginning, must always remember having fun is the key ingredient in players wanting to further develop their baseball careers.

"If you ask any major-leaguer if he still has fun playing the game, the vast majority would say they do. Having fun is important whether you're at the Little League level or at the senior level.

"I still play competitively at the senior baseball level and I wouldn't be playing if it wasn't fun, so fun is a major factor in it all. When the kids enjoy themselves, they learn. And, when they enjoy themselves while they're learning, they keep coming back."