For the love of the game
Matt Zimmerman has always loved baseball.
The 38-year-old St. Catharines native grew up around the diamond and learned to appreciate the game thanks to his father, Ron Zimmerman, a long-time coach with the Brock Badgers and one of the driving forces behind the development of high school baseball in Niagara.
Zimmerman played for the St. Catharines Minor Baseball Association and also at Governor Simcoe before graduating to the coaching ranks where he spent seven years with the Badgers.
Now, Zimmerman is ready for his next challenge as the new president of the St. Catharines Minor Baseball Association, taking over for past president Ryan Villers.
“I’m excited, it’s a big deal for me,” Zimmerman said. “I’m at good point in my life where I can take something on like this and I’m excited to grow along with the association.”
Zimmerman, who joined the association two years ago as a coach and last year acted as the director of development, can’t wait to get started.
“We need to bring the passion back. You need to be proud to be a member of the Cobras,” he said. “I bring a lot of passion. It’s the way played, it’s just me. I’m bringing a lot of passion to the association and I’m surrounding myself with a lot of people who have a similar passion.
“I think we’re going to be able to move forward. Ryan left us with a good base so I think we’re ready to move on.”
Zimmerman has several key points he plans to focus on, beginning with strong programs at the younger levels.
“Ultimately, my goal is going to be to have it like a major league system. To work up from a farm team to bring the kid up and the best way to do that is to start with the development at the bottom,” he said. “It means engaging our younger kids — 5U, 6U, 7U — before they even get to rookie ball. We need to engage those kids in development.”
Zimmerman is in the process of putting together a group of directors to oversee development each step of the way.
“My goal is that we have four directors this year that are under my watch,” he said. “The director of development will play a more prominent role. We have a director of house league, director of select, director of rep and development. Hopefully by using the director of development, my overall goal of development (will be) to tie all three of our programs together.”
The COVID-19 pandemic hit minor ball hard last summer, although the Cobras were able to offer some limited programs.
“My perfect world is to make St. Catharines minor ball grow on the baseball side,” he said. “Ryan has set us up on the off field stuff. We’re leading the area in house league numbers. We had 600 kids in house league before COVID. Our house league program is second to none, in my opinion.
“I just want to get back to our normal numbers. We’re still probably going to be in a COVID year where we have some resistance to normal baseball. If we can get back, even half way, that’s my ultimate goal.”
Zimmerman, who has two sons, Max and Mason, is also working on an indoor program for the association this winter.
“We have plans to use an indoor facility and start running clinics which in turn would make our select program better because the kids from house league will get better and the kids will eventually move up to all star which would make our rep teams better,” he said. “We have to build from the bottom up.”
Zimmerman also plans to call on his father for advice.
“He’s my consigliere. I’ve got a guy I can bounce ideas off. He’s basically built Brock and high school baseball,” he said. “I need him in my corner.”
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