By Doug Kennedy
You could make a pretty good case for Kincardine being the centre of the baseball universe in Ontario. Our town has produced many, many talented players, coaches and volunteers over the years, including Scott Ballantyne.
Ballantyne, the son of Bill and Jo-Anne Ballantyne, grew up here with his sister Karen, and has carved out a place as a leader in the Kitchener-Waterloo sandlot community as the manager of the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks for the past 13 seasons, and with the Kitchener Panthers in the Inter-County Baseball League.
A graduate of KDSS, Ballantyne’s “tenure” at Wilfrid Laurier started as a varsity baseball player for five years that included MVP honours in 2002 and 2003. Once he was done playing, he took a coaching gig with the Golden Hawks for three years, before taking over the baseball program in 2013 and building it into one of the premier programs in U Sports.
The Golden Hawks’ regular-season record since 2003 is 146 wins and 88 losses, with a 27-17 mark in the playoffs. Ballantyne has been named OUA coach of the year, including three consecutive seasons between 2017 and 2019. He has managed the Laurier baseball team to three OUA championships since 2013, including back-to-back titles the past two seasons.
Along with the three league titles, Ballantyne lists coaching for Canada at the 2008 and 2010 World University Baseball Championship as highlights.
“That was a really exciting time for me,” said Ballantyne, who, like many great coaches, takes pride in watching his players grow. “No matter how successful you are on the field, the biggest accomplishment is when the players who come (to Laurier) as 17 or 18-year-old boys leave as 22 or 23-year-old men.
“Knowing you played a small part in their development is very rewarding.”
This coming year Ballantyne feels the Golden Hawks will be in the mix to compete for their third consecutive OUA championship. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been able to continue the recruiting process and believes the incoming group will receive plenty of support from a strong crew of returnees, to deal with a busy schedule of 40 games over two months.
“We will have a lot of depth, especially with our pitching, to help with injuries,” said Ballantyne. “One thing about this group is that it has a next-man-up mentality; we know that if a player goes down, someone else who is equally as capable will be ready. It will be interesting to see how hungry our guys are to come out and try to three-peat in the fall.”
Like any parent, being able to coach his children is the best part of Ballantyne’s passion for sports. He met his wife Amy, a member of the cheerleading team at Laurier, when they were university students. They have three children, Ty, 11; Kyra, nine; and Zoey, six. Ty is an AAA goalie with the Waterloo Wolves and also plays AA baseball, and Kyra plays softball for the Waterloo Ghosts. Ballantyne manages Ty’s U-11 team and is an assistant coach with Kyra’s U-10 team.
In 2017, Ballantyne was named to the top-100 most influential people in Canadian baseball, by Bob Elliott. It doesn’t get much better for a baseball person in this country than being honoured by Elliott, the retired Toronto Sun sportswriter and the dean of national baseball writers.
“Our community should be very proud of Scott; he’s worked extremely hard to get to where he is today,” said Warren Beisel, a long-time coach and executive member in the Kincardine Minor Baseball Association. “He has always made himself available to help with any baseball-related questions. He is extremely knowledgeable about the game and any player or parent who has had the opportunity to deal with him would share the same sentiment. Scott comes from a close family which has always worked extremely hard and continually goes out of its way to help others, with no personal gain.”
Ballantyne, whose day job is vice-president of finance at Descartes Systems Group, a multi-national software company, also continues to be involved with the inter-county league Panthers by sitting on its board of directors and serving as the team’s director of player recruitment.
“Scott does a great job for the Panthers, no question,” said IBL Commissioner John Kastner. “But even though he’s responsible for the Panthers, he is a league-first guy and is always supportive of league initiatives. He has put the Panthers in a position to win but he always appreciates and pushes the bigger picture.”
By Doug Kennedy