There is a common phrase in the sport that a strong junior program will be reflected in the seniors, but as many sports clubs in Canberra will attest, it takes considerable time and effort.
Eagles Baseball Club, based in Kambah, lives by this philosophy with the hope that the relaunch of its junior program will lead to success in the years to come.
The club was founded by Daramalan College in 1967, making it one of the oldest in Canberra.
Chris Hansen has been president of the Junior Eagles for the past four years after joining the team almost ten years ago as a coach. Her three children are also involved in the Club.
By his own admission, baseball was generational thanks to his father’s passion for the game.
“I was born there and have always been passionate about it,” says Chris. “I played with the Rebels in the late 1980s.”
It didn’t take much persuasion to return to the game as a junior coach, albeit at another club.
“No matter what club you’re involved with, there is a lot of camaraderie in baseball in Canberra,” says Chris.
The Eagles – who are one of six teams in the senior ACT Baseball competition – have had a history of ups and downs, often in concert with the city’s changing demographics.
The club is not unique in this area; it is an experience that many sports clubs in Canberra have had.
Kambah has an aging population, but there is a younger population within the larger club footprint of Jerrabomberra and Googong.
With that in mind, Chris says the focus has been on developing and expanding the junior programs beyond Kambah.
“We have been promoting sport a lot in the region,” he says. “We had ‘come and try’ days with things like ‘quick guns’ for launchers. It was a carnival atmosphere, and we wanted it to be fun.
The acceptance rate of “come and try” participants to join one of the junior teams has been 50 to 60%, and the number of players at the club has more than doubled.
“In three years, the number of juniors has gone from 50 to 105,” says Chris. “Our team of foals is doing particularly well. They will be the basis of the senior teams in the years to come. We are now focused on developing our coaches.
There has been a conscious effort to promote other aspects of baseball, including programs leading up to the American college system.
There is also great pride within the club when it comes to the women who participate in the sport.
“We resurrected the women’s program in 2019 and now we have 25 players on two teams for the coming season,” said Chris.
“Bianca Cotter was named the first female president of the Eagles club in July of this year.”
When it comes to Googong and Jerrabomberra, there are high expectations for significant growth at Eagles Baseball Club, especially among the juniors. And the club’s philosophy is reflected in this growth.
“It brings in people from all walks of life,” says Chris. “It’s not an elitist sport.