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Blue Jays, Baseball Canada to host coaching clinic

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays and Baseball Canada have extended their already strong relationship by creating the first National Coaching Clinic at Rogers Centre.

The clinic is set to take place from Jan. 4-6 and will target coaches working at all levels of competition in Canada. Coaches also will be able to earn professional development credit during the course at four different modules.

The creation of the event is a natural next step of what the Blue Jays and Baseball Canada have done in the past, which had mostly been limited to the development of amateur players.

"It was the next logical extension of what we've been doing with amateur baseball in the country," said Stephen Brooks, who is the senior vice president of business operations for the Blue Jays. "Two years ago, we put our collective heads together and said we can do a better job as an organization of supporting amateur baseball and all of its initiatives across the country.

"So, as a result, you've seen the formal partnership with Baseball Canada, Little League Canada and the Honda Super Camps we do across the country with our alumni. This is the next logical extension to get the coaches who are actually teaching all of these kids to play the game, and to something specifically for them."

The biggest benefit for coaches is that they will be able to earn National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) certification at four stations: base running, infield defense, outfield defense and hitting. The cost of those modules is built into the overall registration fees ($120), and there will be no additional fees.

In order to maintain NCCP certification, coaches must achieve 12 points during a three-year span. Participation in the coaches' clinic at Rogers Centre will result in five points, while an additional five will be awarded for each station that is completed.

The system ensures that the coaches will be following the national program and receive the type of instruction that can then be passed along to their athletes all across the country.

"I think it's very important, because those are the standards," Brooks said of the NCCP certification. "This means the coaches are reaching a certain level of ability, level of aptitude. I think that's going to be the big draw of this event -- the fact that the coaches get that certification.

"It'd be great if we could get people outside of the Greater Toronto Area and outside of the province as well -- the more the better."

The Blue Jays will provide a number of former players to participate in the event. Duane Ward, Sandy Alomar Sr., Rance Mulliniks, Homer Bush and Doug Davis will all be taking part, with additional names to added at a future date. It's also possible the camp will be expanded to include some of Toronto's new coaching staff when they get hired in the relatively near future.

The appearance of Ward comes as no surprise. He has been a key contributor to the relationship between Baseball Canada and the Blue Jays for the past couple of years. Ward, who won World Series championships in Toronto in 1992 and '93, was an instructor and an organizer of the Honda Baseball Clinics for young athletes across the country during the past two years after having run similar camps in the United States.

Overall, the Blue Jays often have former players returning to help out, and Brooks said it's something that has been relatively easy for the club to set up because of their willingness to contribute.

"The alumni have been great, and I think what has been good is that the members over the last couple of years that have participated in the clinics and camps have then called up for their teammates and say 'this was a lot of fun, you should be involved'" Brooks said.

"We're starting to see alumni starting to approach us wondering how they can get involved. I think it's a real testimony to the connection the alumni have to the organization. There's some really good guys that want to give back to baseball in this country because of what this place meant to them."

The coaching clinic was the first -- but most likely not the last -- amateur baseball-related initiative to be announced this offseason by the Blue Jays. The Winter Tour is expected to return again this year, while the Super Camps likely will be back in 2013.

"The Toronto Blue Jays continue to be tremendous supporters of Baseball Canada and we strive to improve the development and promotion of amateur baseball in Canada," Baseball Canada president Ray Carter said.

"From the extremely successful Blue Jays Honda Super Camps to supporting our National Championships, and now this key coaching initiative, we are very pleased with the growth of these programs since our partnership began."