Joe Wiwchar wins award of distinction

Sheralee Forsyth of Access Credit Union presents Joe Wiwchar with the Award of Distinction, at the Central Manitoba Tourism Awards, April 25, 2019. (GREG VANDERMEULEN/Morden Times)

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Joe Wiwchar was presented with the Award of Distinction for an individual as part of the 2019 Central Manitoba Tourism Awards in Morden, April 25.
The award is presented to an outstanding individual who demonstrates exceptional leadership in the tourism industry for the Central Region.
Wiwchar began as volunteer curator for the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame from the beginning in 1997. He’s had an active hand in development of the site and its programs for more than 20 years.
“Everything from cataloguing the artifacts in the collection to seeking out donation of display cases and serving on the hall of fame board and organizing the annual induction banquet, Joe’s passion for the sport and its heritage are evidenced in all that he does in celebration of sport,” the nomination states.
Wiwchar said the award is special. “It means a lot,” he said. “It’s always a humbling feeling when you get recognized.”
However Wiwchar said being recognized still came as a shock.
“I just do my job,” he said. “I’m not looking for (awards), and the museum is something I like to do.”
He still recalls being approached by the founding committee and asked if he’d like to be curator. But he said, at that time there was competition for which community would have the museum.
“There was the possibility it was going to go to Neepawa,” he said.
That would have placed it in the basement of a medical centre.
Wiwchar said even the original plan for Morden was nothing like the current space in the Access Event Centre.
“Originally it was going to be two display cases and I said that’s not enough,” he said.
About seven years ago, the hall of fame was expanded, and Wiwchar said he was also able to get display cases after Sears in Polo Park and Kildonan Place shut down.
“We found room for 14 cases,” he said.
The Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame is unique and is one of only three dedicated baseball museums in Canada.
Wiwchar said they share that title with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Mary’s, Ontario and the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame in North Battleford.
“We’re kind of unique for sure,” he said.
For Wiwchar, it’s not hard to pin down what keeps him coming back to the museum and donating his time.
“It’s just the love of baseball,” he said. “I’ve also been coaching for 63 years and still going.”
The Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame has about 60 per cent of their artifacts on display and Wiwchar said people come to remember, sometimes spending hours in the displays.
“There’s a lot of reminiscing going on,” he said.
There are also some rare pieces in the museum such as a uniform from 1900 and an even older ball.
“I have a ball that was used during a game here in 1896 when they were starting to build the Mason’s Hospital,” he said.
He’s also preparing for the June 1 Baseball Hall of Fame banquet in Morden in which Carman’s Armin Gitzel and Morden’s Howie Sager Family will be inducted.
Tickets can be purchased online at mbhof.ca or at the museum at the Access Event Centre.

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