From Baseball to Ball Hawks: Our Origin Story
The Beginning: A Baseball Program
SANDLOT was launched as a baseball program in the Fall of 2019.
Our very first program was Wiffle Ball at the Marden Fieldhouse in the Fall of 2019. This was followed by a baseball clinic in December.
The goal was to create a new kind of recreational baseball experience. We wanted a game with more action, more development and more freedom for kids.
We added a new program in the Winter of 2020 (Throwing Club) that we ran in school gyms. But, like all sports clubs - we were forced to close all programs in March of 2020 with the first COVID-19 lockdown.
Even though much has changed since our first year, we still run Wiffle Ball every Fall and our baseball summer camps continue the tradition of these pickup-style "sandlot games."
Renovating the Field
After months of lockdowns, we launched small (6 kid) programs outside in the summer of 2020 on a private local baseball field.
In the Spring of 2020, as we continued to be locked down by the Covid pandemic, we started our project of renovating an old baseball diamond at Kortright Presbyterian Church.
The field still had an old backstop, but the infield was overgrown from grass and weeds. It was so bad you could barely see the infield at all. We scraped the infield, weeded it, and added another level of stone dust. It was a start. The field continues to need attention each season, but its a sandlot that we call home each spring and summer.
The summer of 2020 was a special kind of summer. After months of isolation, we resumed small programs heavily regulated by public health concerns. The kids and us invented versions of baseball with 6 players (using a trashcan as a fielding aid). By September, with more relaxed regulations in place, after a summer of no baseball, we spent a month playing sandlot ball.
We still play those sandlot baseball games, but the pandemic continued to alter our programs throughout the next year. In fact, it was more than a change. We completely transformed with the launch of Ball Hawks.
The Creation of BALL HAWKS
In 2021, we created BALL HAWKS, our signature program, which marked the transformation of SANDLOT from a baseball program into a revolutionary multi-sport program.
2021 began in lockdown. Amd then for about four weeks in March we had the chance to run a new style of Throwing Club. The focus was on training kids to throw in less-traditional ways. This meant eliminating all drills and playing what is called small-sided conditioned games (in sports science talk).
Examples included some traditional gym activities like Dodgeball and Handball. It also included games such as Bucket Ball, Bank Shot and Guardian.
The evolution of Throwing Club was based on our study of sports science and our unique integration of that science with a philosophy of play derived from phenonmenology and child pyschology.
Over the past two decades, science has revolutionalized the theory of skill acquisition and motor development. The shift from a classic cognitive model to ecological dynamics model (and a constraints-led approach) influenced everything we changed about Throwing Club.
The results were incredible. Even more important. The KIDS loved it.
It was an incredible month of innovation, but very short-lived. April brought another extended lockdown. This one lasted until the end of June. We had nothing to do but read, think, create and design. We looked back on the previous four weeks of Throwing Club with the desire to do more changes. And we asked ourselves what could be our next evolution?
The answer was Ball Hawks.
It was during this lockdown that we created the basic outlines of the program as it now exists. Throwing Club as a single indoor baseball program for the off-season was transfromed into the Ball Hawks Athletic Club. This club would run all year long - both indoors and outdoors. The club was broken into its 3 development cohorts (IGNITE, J-HAWKS, BALL HAWKS).
The very first IGNITE program launched that summer with a handful of kids. It was here that LAVA BALL was invented that very first day as Tilson chased Felix around the baseball infield. The first group of BALL HAWKS started shortly thereafter, and for the rest of the summer, the first season of our new program ran with two cohorts: IGNITE (ages 5) and BALL HAWKS (ages 10-11).
Over the next 12 months more changes would follow expanding the world of Ball Hawks.
We partnered with Guelph MInor Baseball to bring Ball Hawk style training to their competitive rep teams and to their HL development. Parents started to ask for Birthday Parties modelled on Ball Hawk principles. We saw our very first IGNITE cohort turn 7 and became the foundation of our first J-HAWK group. And in the summer of 2023, we launched our first SUMMER CAMPS.