There are still bits of gravel stuck in her knee from playing baseball and soccer on a gravel field. Then baseball disappeared for kids on the North Coast, but this year Emily Kawaguchi is bringing the sport back for her own children, the community and for generations to come.
“My daughter is 10. When I was 10 I was playing baseball. It’s a great sport, it’s fun, and teamwork and all that other stuff. The fact that my kids and other 10-year-olds had no idea how to play was difficult,” Kawaguchi said.
In November, when she was the vice president of minor hockey, she teamed up with one of the coaches, Ken Veldman, and the two conspired to bring the North Coast Minor Baseball League back to life. By spring, the league had kicked off with 130 rookie baseball players learning how to swing, catch and throw.
Kawaguchi has spent a total of two and a half years living outside of Prince Rupert. Team sports were always a part of her life. She played girls softball until she entered high school and then she played slow pitch, basketball and volleyball or whatever sport was in season.
She left the North Coast to study in Victoria and she returned to work for the school district as a child care worker. For a side job, she reckons she worked at every bar in the city. At one point she considered moving to Australia, but life had other plans. She had her daughter, Cassidy, when she was 22-years-old with her husband Greg, and then Reid was born three years later.
Emily Kawaguchi and her kids, Cassidy and Reid. Kawaguchi started North Coast Minor Baseball in 2016. Shannon Lough/Northern View
Honesty is one of Kawaguchi’s most endearing qualities and she enjoys surprising people who expect her to be Japanese — her last name comes from her husband. “Kawa-guchi” literally means river mouth in Japanese, but her husband is more like the rock to her river. His steady work hours at the city allows him to be at home when she’s busy working or volunteering. Her life is a neatly scheduled masterpiece — which may be her secret for how she maintains the balance of being a real estate agent, a wife and a mother with kids in every sport or activity they can sign up for, a social life with friends she grew up with and she still does her own team sports.
“Now I just play beer league slow pitch. I’ll play ball hockey every now and then but my job is pretty busy and I tend to have to work on the same nights that all these activities go on for myself. If I have to choose I choose to go to my kids sports rather than my own,” she said.
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Team sports taught Kawaguchi the competitive qualities that she uses in her career and with organizing the minor baseball league. She feels that kids should be outside playing sports and not playing on iPads indoors.
“Ideally we’d like them to grab a bat and a glove and go and play a pickup game somewhere but it seems like those days are gone. We can at least teach them how to play, give them the tools and maybe they’d be able to do it on their own,” she said.
Which is why Kawaguchi wants to make the minor league the best that it can be so that even after her own kids have grown up it will continue on for the next thirty years with younger generations.
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The games are being held at McKeown Sports Field in Port Edward where the grass is soft and the kids won’t end up with gravel lodged in their knees when they slide for the ball. There is also a Blastball league for the kids three to five-years-old. This gives the younger ones an early start to get the feel for the game before they enter Tee-ball.
Another venture Kawaguchi is working on is getting a canteen up and running. Some of the families are at the field until 8 p.m. and so she organizes meals in evening. The money parents pay for the food goes toward the baseball association for additional equipment or even an end of season party.
With all that Kawaguchi has on her plate, real estate has also been up this year and she said it’s consistently going up with more and more listings. Yet, she describes each endeavour, each after-school activity, with a grin at the added challenge — perhaps another quality she learned from playing sports.
And she did get to go to Australia this year for her sister’s wedding, but she got to take her family.