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29 March, 2009

THE TWO LARRY BALKWILLS


Rising star makes dad very proud
Take a close look at the accompanying photo. What do you see?
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I'll tell you what I see!
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I see a five-letter word, PRIDE, written all over it. The kind of pride that shows in a person's face, in this case the strong smiling countenance of a middle aged man holding back an ocean of emotions. With an arm around the broad shoulders of the towering young athlete wearing a baseball jersey emblazoned with brilliant red C-A-N-A-D-A lettering, tears well in his eyes as he tightens his hold with an extra tug of affection.
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Quite simply, this is the kind of pride that only a father can have for a son who is on the brink of making a major breakthrough in the world of sports. Fathers, justifiably, tend to live vicariously at times like that.
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"There was no prouder moment than seeing him on the field wearing our country's name across his chest. I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. It doesn't get any better than that," says Larry S. Balkwill of Chatham in recalling his reaction to seeing his 17-year-old son, Larry Jr., at the fall instructional camp for Canada's National Junior Baseball Team at Disney Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, in November.
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Larry Jr., who has made a habit of collecting every baseball award in sight since peewee, was named by Baseball Canada to its national junior roster after a standout season in 2008 with Ontario OBA "AAA" champion Windsor Midget Selects and the Ontario junior team that won baseball's Canada Cup. A catcher who consistantly hits in the high .300s with power and a slugging percentage above 500, Larry was named Player of the Year by the Ontario Baseball Association and capped his season by being the first to win two Windsor and Essex Sports Person of the Year Awards in the same year -- Male Athlete of the Year and Outstanding Baseball Player. All this before his 18th birthday.
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Showing class and humility, the budding star credits his family and coaches for helping him get to where he is today. After completing Grade 12 this year at Ursuline College in Chatham, he will be attending NCAA Division 1 Siena College in Loudenville, N.Y. The Siena Saints baseball team, under the direction of legendary coach Tony Rossi, compete in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. With the Windsor Selects last year Larry was a teammate of the Cook twins of Dresden (Justin and Matt) who also picked up American college scholarships after stellar performances of their own in tournaments, league play and playoffs over the course of the past couple of seasons.
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How wonderful it is to see talented young Canadians like Larry and the Cook twins being given opportunities to develop athletically and, ultimately, as solid citizens destined to be our future. Thank God for parents like Larry and Sheila Balkwill who invest themselves in that future on behalf of all of us.
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Just because Larry will be off to college in the fall does not mean that the Balkwills will have more time to themselves or will be putting fewer miles on the family car. Fourteen-year-old daughter Katie and 11-year-old son Matthew will more than pick up any slack.
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Salute to Sheila: "Behind every successful athlete and his proud father is a mother who does their laundry, picks up after them, feeds them...and loves them!"

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