Since 1983, Vito Bordignon has been coaching in the Hastings Community Little League. That’s a long time, and it’s a big commitment year after year. But ask Bordignon about his 33-year gig, and he’ll tell you the ride and the journey has been worth it every step of the way, but now it’s time to hang up his hat for good.
As the manager for the Hastings Community Little League, he has relished each and every day that he’s had the chance to watch boys become men.
Bordignon grew up in a not-so-affluent community where blue collar staff worked for every dollar and cent, and the dream of getting to a World Series was just that: a dream.
It was that drive, and the love of the game, which led him down the coaching path back in 1983.
“I always said to myself I would never go to the World Series just to be a spectator, I would have to be a participant. I felt I could channel my energies through these kids to give them an opportunity to be a better ball player, and second of all, the opportunity to experience something like kids in our area never did.”
Shaping tomorrow’s leaders through teamwork
And time has flown by fast; did Bordignon believe when he signed up he’d spend over three decades growing the game with kids, all of whom shared an unyielding sense of desire and brotherhood?
Perhaps not, but the magic he has summoned over the years has left it’s indelible mark on the Hastings Little League, and it led them to not one, not two, but three World Series appearances in 2009, 2012, and 2016.
Canada has yet to claim the ultimate prize, but to Bordignon it’s not about wins or losses. It’s about values like leadership, teamwork, and a sense of community; things he says the boys come away with year after year.
One of the toughest aspects of the job is keeping the hopes and dreams of the kids in perspective. Representing the red and white comes with heavy expectations, and for a lot of the kids who get to wear Canada’s colours, there’s pressure from their nation, their parents, and the pressure they put on themselves to win.
It’s his job to keep them from getting too high or too low.
“We want to enjoy the World Series. We want to enjoy what it brings to us and experiences to us. We realized we’re able to play against other teams in the world and we would never have the opportunity to build friendships and relationships that will last forever. A lot of these kids they met were from different countries they would never ever meet and now they’re friends who are e-mailing, tweeting, and on Instagram. And that’s what baseball is, about the whole experience… If you win, yes, it’s quite the achievement. But we go in there to have fun, to do our best, to show we’re tough Canadians who play hard and are competitive and we do the best we can.”
2016 marks the last year for Bordignon, who says now is the right time to walk away from the post.
“I couldn’t think of a better scripted ending. I made the decision five years ago this would be my last game. I don’t think I’ll come back in years, but it’s time to take a break and have a summer so my wife and I can enjoy some travelling the next three or four years.”
WATCH: Canada vs. Japan Little League World Series 2016 highlights
Bordignon is a firm believer you can learn a lot about life through baseball. You can spend your life chasing your goals; sometimes you’ll achieve them, and sometimes you’re left wanting. It’s about how people take the winning with the losing that defines their character.
“Everyone wants to win. Everyone wants to be successful. Not everyone wins, you’re going to have to lose. And in losing, you have to show respect to the other team like you show respect to the other team when you win. And I think a lot of these kids realize that and understand losing. They’re not happy about losing, but they accept it. And that’s part of life, because not everything is going to be a hundred percent perfect in your life, and you have to realize you’re going to have to deal with the ups and downs.”
There’s a storied quote from the legendary Babe Ruth: “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way”.
For Bordignon, it was a swing for the fences which sure feels like nothing short of a home run.