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Big park, smaller numbers: Baseball boss in Newton urges more kids to play the game

‘This spring, not all the diamonds will be active, because of lower numbers,’ Valen Kayaks says
Newton Canadian baseball association president Valen Kayaks at Unwin Park in Surrey on Friday, March 22. The association’s season-opening ceremony and games are planned at the park Saturday, April 6, and members are doing a “park cleanup day” Saturday, March 30, starting at 9 a.m. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Spring is here, time again to play ball at diamonds across Surrey and the rest of B.C.

In Newton, Valen Kayaks sees a large park with a long baseball history but increasingly short of young players.

The 36-acre Unwin Park is where Kayaks, newly appointed president of Newton Canadian Baseball Association (NCBA), first began watching his kids play ball close to 20 years ago, on the eight diamonds mostly on the north end, off 134 Street, and in the indoor batting cage.

The community park is unique in Surrey, he says, because it’s large enough for all divisions of baseball, from blastball to Midget AAA, as a hub for one association.

“Twenty years ago this place was just hopping, just incredible,” Kayaks recalled with a smile. “We had all eight diamonds here filled with kids, from the smallest to the big kids. This spring, not all the diamonds will be active, because of lower numbers, fewer kids playing.”

A few weeks ago Kayaks emailed the Now-Leader with his concerns about the potential loss of Newton Canadian Baseball, whose use of Unwin Park dates to the mid-1960s. Back then, on donated land, the old Harold Bent Stadium (now known as Diane Cook Field, or Diamond #1) was quite a busy place, and sometimes still is.

Kayaks hopes for large crowds there Saturday, April 6, when the baseball association hosts season-opening ceremonies and games (starting at 8:30 a.m. with a pancake breakfast), on the May long weekend during the annual Ross Tournament, on Father’s Day for a closing-day carnival and also during 15U A division provincials, Aug. 8-12.

Among dignitaries invited to the April 6 opening ceremony (9 a.m. start) is Cooper Misic, who grew up playing at NCBA before pitching at Central Washington University and, more recently, working in sales with Vancouver Canadians. The minor-pro team’s mascot, Bob Brown Bear, is also expected to attend.

A Newton Canadian player at bat during a 2019 Ross Tournament game hosted by the baseball association at Unwin Park in Surrey. The annual tournament is played there on the May long weekend. (Photo:

More than anything, Kayaks aims to add a little excitement and fun to the ballpark in Newton to stir interest among local kids.

“I’ve taken on this role (as association president) to get more people interested in baseball,” he said. “My kids are older now, you know, but my heart is still here.

“We want people in the area to know about this park, that they can go to our website and see when the ballgames are scheduled, and that there’s a concession here where they can get food and drinks,” Kayaks added. “The website will also show if the park’s closed because of rain-out. We want kids to play and have fun, and also for the community to come enjoy the park too.”

A Newton Canadian player runs the bases during a 2019 Ross Tournament game hosted by the baseball association at Unwin Park in Surrey. The annual tournament is played there on the May long weekend. (Photo:

Surrey is large enough to have four member associations of BC Minor Baseball including Newton Canadian, Surrey Canadian (in Guildford and Whalley), Cloverdale and White Rock-South Surrey organizations.

Across the board, COVID killed registration numbers for a time, but the post-pandemic rebound for baseball numbers has been slow in Newton.

“We all have catchments, the associations in Surrey, and we’re fighting to get a larger catchment, because we’re struggling,” Kayaks explained. “Years ago we’d have five Mosquito division teams (11U age group), and now there are no Mosquito teams here. We have some teams interlocked with Surrey Canadians, kind of a merger of kids, so that says not enough kids are playing here.”

Kayaks would love to spread word about Newton Canadian Baseball at local schools, but has encountered some hurdles with that.

“There are kids in schools down the street who don’t know about Newton baseball, and we want to change that, but it’s tough,” he noted. “I have other ways. Like, at the store, I’m literally the guy telling kids they should be playing baseball and handing them a flyer, you know.”

Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news for Surrey Now-Leader and Black Press Media
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