James Shaw steps up to the plate to field baseball team at NDDHS

MAPLE RIDGE – The infield looks more like a swimming pool these days, but that hasn’t stopped the North Dundas District High School (NDDHS) baseball team from dusting off the bats and gloves as they prepare for a winner-take-all tournament in Cornwall Thurs., May 17.

This year’s baseball season will have at least one thing in common with the spring planting season; it will be a sprint not a marathon.

First-year coach and NDDHS teacher, James Shaw, has a very small window to get his team ready to play meaningful games after finding out only a few short weeks ago that there will indeed be an SD&G championship tournament. Shaw has decided to break down the practices in order to focus on individual skills.

James Shaw (above, left) head coach of the NDDHS baseball team, hit a few ground balls in early fielding practice. The Devils baseball team has their regional tournament on Thurs., May 17.

“I’m focusing on breaking it down into separate parts and then putting it back together. A lot of times with rural communities, they’re not getting the coaching but they get the opportunity to play. I want them to improve the skills they have,” he said. “These guys all play different versions of ball in the summer. Some play competitive. Some of them play house league. So what I’m hoping to do is get these guys to work together and become a unit. It’s very short. School programs are usually very short but this will hopefully build a positive school experience. These types of programs are what some kids come to school for.”

Four schools – NDDHS, Holy Trinity, La Citadelle and St. Joe’s – will be competing in the championship tournament. The math for Shaw and his squad of 12 is simple. They are guaranteed two games. Win the first game and they play for the gold medal. Lose and they play for bronze. The champion moves on to EOSSAA in Kingston Wed., May 23.

Ideally, Shaw would like his team to have an exhibition game before they’re thrown into the heat of a high-stakes tournament.

“We’re hopeful, but we’re waiting on the weather right now. I would like our first experience to not be the SD&G championships,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to play the teams we’re going to play [at the championships] because we would tip our hand. If we play an exhibition game and they see all the pitchers we have, then they will know what to look for when we play them in a very important game. The goal would be not to tip my hand and to be the most prepared we can possibly be. I don’t want to be out executed and I don’t want to be out coached.”

Mason McLeod, pictured at right, showed off his reach corralling a high throw. Press Photos – Schoch

Much like the baseball glove that lays forgotten on a shelf in the garage, the NDDHS baseball program has been pulled out of storage and dusted off. With that in mind, Shaw has taken a longview approach to this shortened season.

“I went and bought equipment for the team, for the school, to have. I purchased catchers equipment and specific wooden bats, which they needed in order to play. They didn’t have any of this stuff. We were just living off what I owned and what the kids owned. When these kids are gone, I’m hoping that the program, even if it’s just a hybrid, lives on. Hopefully this becomes a consistent thing. That it’s not even a thought. That this isn’t just a one-off. I went to this school. My intention is for this to be continuous. Baseball has only grown in the area so my intention is for this to continue,” he said.

Despite being forced to practice indoors due to inclement weather, Shaw maintains the game and the training is about more than just athletic ability.   

“That’s why we’re breaking it down and we’re going to spend time talking systems too. It’s a very mental game. That’s what I’m trying to preach. It’s way more than just muscling the baseball,” he said.

The SD&G baseball championships will be played at Legion Field in Cornwall on Thurs., May 17.