Whitehorse City Council awarded Blackburn Baseball Club with Club of the Year honours at their annual awards on Wednesday night, a welcome achievement for the tight-knit Burners community.
This award recognises all the contributions of volunteers and supporters, with Blackburn beating out 250 clubs across Whitehorse. Club Secretary Patrick White, who received the 2023 Whitehorse City Council Volunteer of the Year Award, says it comes after they set out to change the shape and culture of the club.
"It’s honestly recognition for a few years worth of hard work from our committee to re-engage with our members and then have them buy into the direction we want to go," White said. "It’s an awesome feeling to be recognised within our council, particularly where there are so many other fantastic sporting clubs and also to receive it coming from a lower tier sport."
With a "good people first, then good baseball will follow mentality", the club reset its junior program, cutting fees by 200% to eliminate financial stress for families while helping retain kids in sport for their well-being.
After bringing together the senior and junior clubs, Blackburn has seen a 25% increase in player numbers.
"We are the biggest we have been in 20+ years and have close to 20 teams across our club, making us bigger than some of the tier 1 sports we compete with for attention," White said.
The club is committed to supporting players on and off the field, and a partnership with SALT - Sport And Life Training offers mental health programs to participants, parents and supporters.
This supportive environment, coupled with social functions and gameday engagement, such as seniors coaching juniors and juniors throwing out the first pitch at senior games, has brought back the large community feel the Burners are so proud of.
"Ultimately, we are a community of people who enjoy spending time with one another and looking after one another, and baseball is what brings us together," White said.
The Burners look forward to building on this foundation after starting the summer season off strong with the council award.
"We celebrate our 60th year as a club this year with two of our founding members in Ian Burgell and Paul Tierney still involved, so seeing how proud they were to win the award only makes it feel more lovely," President Brooke Tierney said.
"We’ve worked hard to build a better relationship with our council and the Forest Hill Baseball Club crew to ensure as a collective group, we work together to drive baseball and our clubs to a better place. So we really feel like this award is for all of us."