* Ken Dawe (left) Baseball Newfoundland and Labrador executive director, with one of his baseball idols, Steve Garvey at the 2005 Baseball Canada Convention in Regina. The longest serving amateur baseball employee in the country is stepping down. ….
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Letters of Intent
Q & A with outgoing Baseball NL Executive Director Ken Dawe
By Adam Morissette
It’s a rarity in today’s world for someone to spend his or her entire working career at the same job let alone accomplish the feat in the amateur sports industry. Often, people will experience working for different sports in various capacities before moving on to something different.
Ken Dawe is an exception to this and has been in his role as the Executive Director of Baseball Newfoundland and Labrador since September 1979. This puts him in a league of his own as the longest serving amateur baseball employee in the country.
This coming Friday will mark his final day on the job ending a career that has included nearly four decades serving baseball in his home province, countless hours at the ball field, dozens upon dozens of times attending provincial and national meetings, and forming relationships that will last well into his retirement.
Ken was kind enough to share some of his favourite memories from his time as ED including all-time favourite conventions, baseball moments, relationships, his love of the Los Angeles Dodgers and of course, for anyone that knows him well, his favourite concerts!
How did you become ED of Baseball NL back in 1979?
The Provincial Government sport division had begun a program of subsidizing salaries for sport governing bodies to hire employees. I was substitute teaching at the time and I recall leaving a gym after a basketball game (Ken played on Newfoundland and Labrador’s 1971 Canada Games basketball team) when a member of the Baseball NL executive asked if I’d be interested in becoming baseball’s first Executive Director. I jumped at it. I think hiring is done a little differently these days.
Earliest baseball memory?
Playing pickup games in Bannerman Park all day long during the summer and then second base with the St. John’s city parks champs, Pepsi Caps in 1961 and discovering how to throw a curveball and pitching the Dodgers to the Bannerman Park championship in 1962. I was my hero Sandy Koufax (without the fastball and sharp breaking curveball). Also a nearby corner store sold the Sporting News and I’d buy and devour the stories and box scores.
Favourite all-time baseball player?
When and where did you watch your first MLB game?
June 6, 1965. It was a Sunday afternoon doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. I was in New York for my brother’s graduation from Iona College in New Rochelle. Whitey Ford and Al Downing started and won both games against the White Sox. Tom Tresh hit 3 home runs in the 2nd game. Mantle and Maris played in both games. A few days later we went to Boston to visit relatives and I saw Bill Monbouquette pitching at Fenway. It was real nice to meet and talk with him years later at a Baseball Canada Convention.
Explain your passion for the LA Dodgers and your intense following of the team.
I became a Dodgers fan at age seven or eight. It might have been because a brother of mine was a New York Giants fan. It’s never good for brothers to cheer for the same team. It might have been because the names Brooklyn Dodgers, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, John Roseboro, Don Zimmer, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Junior Gilliam, Gil Hodges, Pee Weee Reese, etc. created a child’s magical wonder for me. Then it was the move to LA and they’re being on TV in the ’59 World Series and the (Wally) Moon shots at the LA Coliseum. Jump ahead to 1976 and I married Marian and we spent our honeymoon in Dodger Stadium watching nine games there and another three Dodgers games in San Diego. I forgot to mention to her beforehand about all those games. Great home stand and short road trip for the start of a marriage. I told that story to Steve Garvey when he was guest speaker at the 2005 Baseball Canada Convention in Saskatoon and he gave me a very strange look and said, “How was I?” I replied “You were great, Garv.”
What are three memories that stand out from your time as ED?
The first Challenger Baseball game in 2014 in Paradise, NL watching the smiles on the players and parents’ faces, and the importance of that game to those players was incredibly heartwarming.
The accomplishments of Frank Humber,Troy Croft, Myles Vincent and Heather Healey being named to and playing with National Teams, especially Croft who hit a home run in Canada’s championship game win at the 1991 World Junior Championships (with the team’s assistant coach Tony Flood from NL cheering him on).
Sitting in at the 1986 (Baseball Canada) Annual General Meeting in which Bill Halfyard of St. John’s was elected President of Baseball Canada.
What memories stick out from any of the Baseball Canada convention you have been to?
It had to be two conventions in Saskatoon (one in the 90s and a second in 2005) in which the Friday night socials had a couple of hypnotists looking for some volunteers. The first one had to be the most hilarious 90 minutes that the convention delegates and I ever experienced. I am grateful to those who ran and grabbed me before I tried to escape a horrible smell by opening a 6th floor window intent on jumping into the fresh air. At the same time Ray “Smokey the Bear” Carter was dousing fires in the ballroom and Jim Baba, Linda Lewis and Doug from Alberta were creating other forms of mayhem. In 2005 I was called upon to return from the far ends of the universe in my spaceship to save the world. Commander Spiffy came to the rescue.
Best concert you have seen while at a Baseball Canada meeting?
Leonard Cohen in June 2007. He played two consecutive nights at the Sony Centre on Front Street in Toronto and I was there for both.
Best concert you have been to ever?
In January 1998 I saw Bob Dylan and Van Morrison on a double bill for four nights in New York City at the Paramount Theater (2nd floor at MSG). Both musicians and their bands were in top form. I could have seen them a fifth time on that trip but opted to see my New York Rangers instead.
Van Morrison – lifelong groupie fan. Have seen him in concert 23 times.
Favourite memory from a National Championship?
Newfoundland coming back from a three-run Ontario first inning to take a 4-3 victory in the championship game of the 1966 National Junior Championships in St. John’s.
What accomplishments are you most proud of from your time as ED?
It’s not so much what I have accomplished as much as it is my trying to be available to the executive and membership at all times to assist, facilitate, and communicate Baseball NL programs and activities.
I have tried consistently through the years to promote and urge the Baseball NL membership to use the Baseball Canada coaching, umpiring, youth development, and skills development programs, including Rally Cap, Winterball, etc.
I pushed for and was happy to see Baseball NL do Strategic Planning and LTAD Implementation.
How has the ED job changed since you started?
The biggest change in the ED job is the manner of communicating the programs and activities that saw reliance on typewriters (yes remember them?), postal mail, phone calls and (even later) faxes to today’s heavily computerized use of social media, smart phones, and websites to deliver instant information.
Favourite Baseball Park in Newfoundland? Favourite Baseball Park in Canada?
St. Pat’s Ball Park in St. John’s. The setting in a small valley with a background of ascending trees and older home mansions is very special. I’ve always enjoyed the Jays games at the Rogers Centre and made a point of traveling early or staying a few days later when attending Baseball Canada annual meetings in Toronto.
Who is the best baseball player that Newfoundland and Labrador has produced?
Left-handed pitcher Frank Humber from Corner Brook. He was an exceptional minor division pitcher and first baseman who received a 4-year scholarship at Wake Forest, was named to Canada’s Senior National team and pitched a great game against Cuba at the 1987 Pan Am Games. He pitched in the Olympics in South Korea in 1988 and was then drafted by the Dodgers and played in Great Falls and Bakersfield. He’s continued to play and pitched for Corner Brook Barons in the 2014 National Senior Championships.
Finest performance by a Baseball NL team during your time as ED?
It would be bronze medal wins by Corner Brook in the Senior Nationals in Windsor, Ontario in 1992 and a bronze medal win at home by the Corner Brook Barons in the 1994 Junior National Championships
What are you looking forward to most in retirement?
Red wine, music, and a good book. I’ve not made any plans because I don’t want God to be laughing too hard. I am considering traveling to Toronto for the Pan Am Games this summer.
What will you miss most about the job?
I’ll miss the day-to-day camaraderie with the entire baseball community.