The grand old game took centre stage at Kwalikum Secondary School, as around 40 kids and almost as many parents turned out at Kwalikum Secondary School for Oceanside Minor Baseball’s annual pre-season clinic and orientation last Thursday evening.
While the young players were having a ball in the gym taking part in drills and games, the parents were dug in down the hall for 90 minutes of coaching instruction from Terry McKaig, head coach of the UBC Thunderbirds baseball program.
Assisting McKaig was former Parksville Royals’ standout infielder Kevin Biro from Deep Bay who is in his second season with the Thunderbirds, who are currently tied with Louis-Clark State at 12-4 for first in the NAIA West standings.
Easy going and articulate when it comes to the game he loves, McKaig, 41, who was a national team member and played semi-pro as a right fielder back in his playing days, is in his 16th season as coach with UBC, takes his role of messenger seriously.
“It’s getting worse and worse and worse,” he told the parents of the arm injuries showing up in college age chuckers, almost all of which he says can be traced directly back to their development years, and pointed to the growing number of talented players he’s seeing missing seasons because of recurring arm injuries.
“We have three guys (on our team) out for the year already and of the nine that are healthy, five have lingering arm issues from years ago.”
“The best thing we can do with our kids when they’re seven, eight, nine years old, is getting them going correctly.
“I think we’re really doing them a service for the future of the game of baseball, we’re starting to see kids at 14, 15 now having major arm surgeries and stuff,” he said. “It’s scary, and it’s all because of what they were doing at (this) age group.”
To that end McKaig broke down the throwing motion, talked about the dos and dont’s as it applies to both the fielders and the pitchers — making sure the thumb is always underneath the ball and in the middle, not the side of the ball.
After questions and answers McKaig then spent time with bat in hand talking about hitting, providing more proven and easy to remember drills and info, then capping it off with a look at the in-fielding and out-fielding.
In the end, the parents left with some tangible tools to take to their players and peers — specific drills and an understanding of what to watch for.
“I’ve been doing this a while now,” McKaig said when The NEWS caught up with him. “We do a lot of camps for kids of all age groups, and the one that I’ve really tried to focus on the last five years is the coaching clinics. I think the future is really getting these coaches a little bit more educated, giving them some more tools to help them out on the baseball field because they’re the ones working with them on a daily basis.”
“I really enjoy the coaching clinics, and it’s great when you see an organization that’s willing to make a commitment to try to bring some people in as a resource for their coaches to use to become better coaches,” he said. “I enjoy it. There’s always some good questions; they’re dialled in, they’re paying attention and it really makes you feel you’re really making a difference for some of these coaches, to help them have a better experience out on the field this summer.”
“We spent a lot of time on the throwing,” he confirmed. “I think that’s so critical to make sure the kids are throwing properly at this age.
“This is the third year we’ve run this clinic and the third time that Save-On-Foods has sponsored,” OMB president Mike Parlow said after, adding that as always “we wanted to provide a foundation to our newest coaches as well as to parents new to baseball. Baseball certainly has a long history in Oceanside and lots of folks know and love the sport,” he said, “but the reality is that at the same time baseball is brand new each year for 90% of the parent/coaches in the younger age groups (and) McKaig’s clinic is one of the tools we use to introduce those parents to the sport and how baseball can benefit their children as an avenue to exercise, sportsmanship, and merit-based achievement.
“Terry’s presentation and philosophy merge perfectly with our Rally Cap development program.”
Meanwhile at the other end of the school the gym was jumping with enthusiastic young players; boys and girls, practicing their hitting, catching, running, and having fun.
“He’s a real good kid; a very intense kid,” coach McKaig said of his 3rd baseman from Deep Bay (who also plays short and 2nd). “Sometimes he’s a bit hard on himself out on the field, and sometimes our job is just to calm him down a bit … he brings a lot to the field.”
McKAIG AT A GLANCE
According to the UBC website since reviving the UBC Thunderbirds baseball program 16 years ago, head coach Terry McKaig has developed Canada’s lone full-scale university baseball team into a perennial top-25 team in the NAIA and has seen 19 players taken in the MLB Amateur Draft.
In 2010, McKaig was honoured as the 2010 NAIA West Grouping Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season. It was the third time he has won the conference level award while at the helm for UBC. He earned the award after leading UBC to a program best no. 3 ranking in the NAIA Top 25. McKaig is a native of Vernon, BC, McKaig began his post-secondary playing career as a right fielder at North Idaho College (‘90-93), before making stops with Albertson College (‘94) and the National Baseball Institute (‘95-96). He was also spent time with the Kelowna Grizzlies of the semi-pro Pacific International League (summers of ‘93, ‘94 and ‘96) and was a member of the Canadian senior national team in 1995, where he played with the likes of Eric Gagne, Jeff Zimmerman, Cody McKay and Kevin Nicholson.
His overall record is 453-298-1 (.603) with an NAIA Record of 411-245-1 (.626).
Prior to coming to UBC, McKaig spent one season as the head coach of the Vancouver Mounties of the Premier Baseball League. He has also managed Team Canada’s entry in the Grant Forks International 10 times. He coached the Canadian team at the 2004 World University Baseball Championship in Taipei and 2008 World University Baseball Championship in the Czech Republic. In 2009, led Team Canada to a third place finish at the World Baseball Challenge in Prince George, BC.
In 2011, McKaig did colour commentary for the Vancouver Canadians, the Short Season-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.
McKaig graduated from UBC in 1997 with a degree in human kinetics and a minor in business. He, wife, Davina, and their children, Jenna and Trenton, live in Ladner, B.C.