Special guests highlight EMBA 60th celebrations

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Baseball_EMBABaseball_MattDevin  by Fred Groves

Hundreds of baseball players and three very special guests were in town on Saturday as the Essex Minor Baseball Association (EMBA) celebrated its 60th anniversary.

In the shadow of the large sign that displays the numerous provincial championships, World Series champion Dave Rozema autographed baseballs and pictures. He was more than willing to have his photo taken with fans and show off his 1984 championship ring.

One baseball he signed was covered with signatures, including former Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland. Rozema had 448 strikeouts in his major league career with Detroit and the Texas Rangers.

“The best memory I have is when they called me out on Opening Day and my family was there,” he said during a break from greeting fans of all ages at the Essex Centre Sports Complex.

Holding a baseball, he told one young fan that there are 215 stitches in a ball. He knew that from counting them so many times. He alsoBaseball_RonMc gave out some advice to young players, including do the best that you can, no matter the task.

“You have to play catch and get the right mechanics. A throwing arm is the most important thing in baseball,” he said.

Saturday’s activities included 17 games from the youngest age group T-ball to the Essex Juniors, which was well challenged in a game against the Can-Am League’s Essex County Diamondbacks.

Matt Devin brought his 21-month old son Grayson to Essex to get their picture taken with another special guest.

“We’re from LaSalle and my co-worker said that PAWS was going to be here. I’m trying to groom him (Grayson) into a Tigers’ fan,” Devin said.

PAWS is the official mascot of the Detroit Tigers and was very busy in the morning, running bases and posing for pictures, many of them sporting Tigers’ colours.

Baseball_DaveRozemaHowever, it was the black, yellow, and white of the Essex Yellowjackets that was most prominent on a day that had face painting, a dunk tank, radar gun, and a banquet at night that included special guest speaker, former Hockey Night in Canada Executive Producer and Essex resident, Ralph Mellanby.

The Essex Minor Baseball Association was started in 1957 by Bill Woltz, Vern Boeckner, and Jim and Ian MacPherson. They were assisted by then major Elmer Queen and Max Miller.