DIDSBURY – For most of the year Harold Northcott works as the CAO for the Town of Didsbury, but for a couple of weeks this summer he will be stepping into a role as pitching coach for Team Alberta at the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg from July 28 to Aug. 13.
For Northcott, who has been Didsbury’s CAO for two years, it won’t be his first rodeo, so to speak. He has previously coached Team Alberta at the summer games in 1997, 2001 and 2009 where he was head coach.
Northcott wasn’t planning on coaching at the games but stepped into duty after the original pitching coach was unable to make the games and the head coach, a former teammate and coaching partner, asked.
“I found out about it two weeks ago,” he said. “Dwayne Lalor is the head coach out of Red Deer. We have quite the history. We played together on the Canadian national team for two years. We coached the Canadian national youth team together. We played together for many years in Red Deer with the Riggers. He was also one of my (assistant) coaches in 2009 when we played for the gold medal at the summer games in P.E.I. He asked if I would consider it.”
Northcott had his reservations initially as he hasn’t coached high performance baseball since 2009.
“To help Dwayne out – who is a good friend,” he said. “I talked it over with my wife and we thought we could make it a go. So I accepted it.”
The team will be training for three days this week in Calgary before flying out to Winnipeg for the games the following weekend.
Northcott said the squad has already had a couple of practices and a tournament. He was able to meet with his pitchers earlier but he hasn’t attended any practices or games.
“I’ll be coming in cold,” he said. “They are 16- and 17- year-olds and we’re allowed two 18-year-olds. We have a 20-man roster with nine pitchers who I’ll be looking after. I’ll be setting up the schedule for Dwayne on who’ll be the starters, who’ll be the middle guys, who’ll be the closers. I have lots of experience with it so that doesn’t bother me, but I’m coming in cold.”
The Canada Summer Games occurs every four years. In the non-summer games years Team Alberta baseball would play in the Canada Cup.
Northcott said the games are a great experience not only for the players but the coaches as well.
“This is the biggest sporting event in Canada for amateur athletes,” he said. “It’s multi-sports. It’s different than the Canada Cup, which is just for baseball. You want to go cheer on your other Alberta teams at events like volleyball and basketball. It’s great for the athletes to be able to see this. When you go to these types of events it’s really special. There are lots of things going on. It’s a great event.”
Northcott hopes to use his vast coaching experience with provincial and national teams to help the pitchers and the team excel. Before coaching, he played for the University of Eastern Oregon and the Canadian national team.
Northcott said he believes that his experience with baseball, both playing and coaching, has really helped him with his career in senior management.
“With my three children – two of them played NCAA Division one in Louisiana, my daughter played for seven years on Canada – baseball was a really good sport to learn about life,” he said. “That’s how I explain it to players who I coach – it’s all about life skills. Baseball is a different sport because it’s an individual sport – as a pitcher it’s all about you on the mound, you either get them out or you don’t, but to get them out you need eight good teammates around you. It’s neat that way. It’s an individual sport in a team concept. That’s one thing I really like.”
Northcott said that the team part of baseball translates very well to the office.
“As the CAO for the Town of Didsbury, baseball has been a great mentor for me,” he said. “I’m all about team and my staff understands that. This is about the team, not about you individually. And with council we’re making team decisions. Council makes the motion but we feed all the information on making good decisions. Baseball for me and what I do in my profession, they work so closely together. I’m all about team and about providing good service to the Town of Didsbury and we have a great team.”