INNISFAIL – There is a new leader guiding the Innisfail Minor Ball Association.
Curtis Flewelling, who was most recently vice-president and has been with the association (IMBA) for almost 10 years, was chosen president during the annual general meeting on Jan. 12.
He replaces Murray Reay, who decided to step down after serving as president for the past five years. Reay will continue with the association in the role of past-president.
“There comes a time when you have to turns the reins over and let them get going with it because pretty soon, I’ll be wanting to retire,” said Reay with a chuckle. “The association has come a long way over the last few years for sure.”
Reay is also continuing his work as vice-president of the Innisfail Community Facility Enhancement Association that is overseeing the Diamond 7 project by the Innisfail Twin Arena.
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The half million-dollar project, which will be one of the finest ball facilities in Central Alberta, is expected to be a huge boost for both the community and IMBA with an eye on attracting major regional, provincial, western Canadian and nationally recognized ball events to Innisfail.
“Being part of Innisfail minor ball for as many years as I have, you could see the growing need for better facilities, and that is what drove our decision to do what we did,” said Reay.
In accepting the new president role, Flewelling praised Reay’s leadership record with the IMBA.
“Murray’s time as been valued. He has been a great leader for our organization,” said Flewelling, noting he’s “really excited” about the future possibilities coming with Diamond 7 project, which is expected to be operational by the late summer of this year.
“I think it’s a hugely exciting project for the town and our organization. I would like to hope it is step 1 of other exciting projects to come too but obviously the focus right now is getting that one completed,” he added. “It sends a message that this town is excited about its kids and youth. It’s excited about baseball and softball.
“When you have that (Diamond 7) then it helps when you are trying to build your membership. The smaller kids can see the bigger kids playing on a nice facility and it gets them excited and it gives them something to strive for as well.”
In the meantime, however, Flewelling said a key priority in the current challenging COVID era is trying to get the association’s membership back up to what it used to be, which is in the 400 plus level. Currently, the membership is sitting at around 300.
“Those numbers (400) are pretty achievable. I think we have been close to that in the past. COVID has played a huge impact on this, as it has on a lot of things,” he said. “What this summer is going to look like I don’t think anybody knows yet but we are definitely planning full steam ahead.
“Our focus is always to get as many kids playing baseball and softball as we can and have them enjoy it, and we want to be focused on kids that want to achieve at high levels. We want to support them. And kids that want to play more recreational or at the grassroots level we want to support them too.”
Flewelling said registration for competitive baseball and softball teams is now open online on the association’s website, with a deadline of March 1. He added registration for recreational teams will continue to the start of the season, which is either late April or early May.
The opening day for IMBA action is the typically the first weekend of May.