To the parents lining the field, the names of Roberto Alomar, Duane Ward, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield are synonymous with Toronto Blue Jays greatness.
To the kids they were teaching on the field, most of those names were recognizable only through stories or highlights.
However, they were still all ears during the first day of Blue Jays Honda Super Camp, hosted by the Nanaimo Baseball Association at the Serauxmen Fields on Monday.
The Blue Jays alumni, which includes retired coach Sandy Alomar, Sr., are nearing the end of a five-month tour of Western Canada, teaching kids at 17 different stops the fundamentals of baseball.
For the former stars, it's a chance to tour together again and to reminisce about their glory years of 20-plus years ago.
"I love it. We tell stories, we rag on each other, we get it going. Robbie's a little tough to rag on, but he'll take and he will also give it," said Ward, who was one baseball's best relievers during Toronto's back-to-back world championships.
The camp gives them the opportunity to pass on their years of knowledge and experience to the next generation of players coming up in the game. There are 95 kids at the Nanaimo camp, which runs through Wednesday.
"There's still the intensity of wanting to teach and wanting to educate and pass on our knowledge an experience on to these kids and hope that they will take something out of it and to apply it to themselves," said Ward. "The biggest thing is how do we get these kids to start thinking of a different way of how to get better and do it day-by-day."
The big draw is Alomar, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011 and was arguably the best second baseman of a generation. For the kids at the camp, he is easily the most recognizable name.
He spent five years with the club and was a 12-time all-star and 10-time gold glove winner. The Puerto Rico native has since settled in Toronto and has stayed active with the club's alumni, different baseball clinics, prospect camps and charities, including the Roberto Alomar and Friends Home Run Derby, presented by AllState to benefit the Jays Care Foundation in Okotoks, Alta., this past Thursday.
He says despite the age gap, that the young aspiring ball players are picking things up quite well.
"So far it's been great, they have a lot of respect for us," he said. "It's a matter of giving back to them what I learned when I was that age, we're having a lot of fun with them."
Dylan Kirby, 14, falls into the category of having to live vicariously through his parents stories about the Blue Jays' glory years and their exploits, but he is still trying to soak up as much as he can from them.
"They have lot of knowledge about the game, and they're helping me with my strengths and weaknesses, stuff like that," said the Nanaimo Bantam AAA Pirates infielder. "Hitting is where I really need to work."
Kirby is part of that next generation of players in Canada. The last few years has turned into a golden era for the sport in the Great White North, with more Canadians making big league and minor league rosters than ever before. The latest being the emergence of North Battleford, Sask., pitcher Andrew Albers with the Minnesota Twins.
The country is slowly turning into a baseball power.
"I think it's important for the Canadian kids to continue on this roll they have," said Alomar.
"I believe when you represent your country, you represent with a lot of pride and especially now when they have that WBC tournament, hopefully in the next four years Canada can take a much better team and compete, I believe that Canada can compete with anybody in the world right now."
NMBA vice president Mike Holyk said this tour that the Blue Jays are doing will also help put a few more Canadians on the radar for the club, even is they are still at a young age.
"Just talking to Robbie, he just talked about how much unfound talent there is and the Jays are realizing how much talent they are missing in their own back yard," he said.
"In these camps, as they go across the country, there is an ID aspect to it."
Every year, several local players collect scholarships to the NCAA programs, and even the odd one gets drafted. The latest to make this jump to the U.S. is
Griffin Andreychuk, who came up through the Nanaimo minor baseball system and played last season with the Langley Blaze of the B.C. Premiere Baseball League.
He had originally accepted a scholarship to Frank Phillips College, a junior college in Texas, but just recently switched to Seattle University, a Division I program in the Western Athletic Conference, after their shortstop unexpectedly quit.
He was on the field on Monday lending a hand, and will even have the chance to work with Alomar in the batting cage today.
"It's a little humbling to be around them and to be able to talk to them," he said. "To see how they won the World Series not too long time ago, the only time in Blue Jays history, and you're standing right next to them is really cool."
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