The Joy of Giving Back: What Drives This Volunteer Baseball Coach

  • April 16, 2024

CAO’s Empowering Stories from Behind the Bench article series – National Volunteer Week, 2024

“Coaching is deep in my heart, and I want players to become better people, gain confidence, and enjoy playing baseball – like it did for me.”

By David Grossman

Like many youngsters, Michael Sheinfeld tinkered with the fantasy of one day becoming a professional athlete.

It was at age five, when he was introduced to the simplified form of fun, fitness, and the fundamentals of baseball, that Sheinfeld was hooked on the sport. As for role models, he had plenty of major league players to admire.

House league and rep teams would follow over the years and playing for various Thornhill-area teams. At Thornlea Secondary, he played on the school team, was chosen athlete of the year and appears on the school Wall of Fame. Then, while studying at York University, there was time for two seasons of baseball, too.

The admiration for the game would continue to surge – and so would the skills.

All this, Sheinfeld would attribute to the huge amount of volunteer time committed by his coaches – the learning, discipline, eagerness, and overall tutelage from individuals who were determined to make him better day after day.

There were good times and, well, days of challenge.

Victories and defeat had different meanings. Both created opportunities for improvement in teamwork, respect, leadership and just being a good person. His coaches, he remembers, were like family – always looking for ways to recognize his attributes and strengthen areas that needed some development.

There would also come a time when Sheinfeld knew getting to the big leagues just wasn’t going to happen for him. He needed a back-up plan and focus on a different career.

Breaking away from the competitive days as an athlete was tough. Reality would hit when he tore a cartilage in his right arm while playing in a pick-up game. Sheinfeld needed to find another way to connect with baseball. For him, the enthusiasm and interest were too strong to just give it up.

Now, 46 years old, a lot has happened since his first international trip, as a nine-year-old, to play in a tournament in Rochester, N.Y. He’s tried coaching, umpiring and added a variety of administrative duties with the Vaughan Vikings in the City of Vaughan Baseball and Softball Association.

But one day, he will never forget – August 27, 1989.

“It was just before my 12th birthday, around 7:00 in the morning, and we were on our way for the final day of a (baseball) tournament in Bolton,” said Sheinfeld, recalling the event as if it was yesterday.

“A motorcycle, that I was told had been travelling at an excessive speed, smashed into the car that my mother was driving. I was in the back seat with a friend. The motorcyclist, who was intoxicated, was dead on impact. My baseball buddy died on the way to hospital.”

Shock and dismay took over. Recalling what happened on that country road on a clear summer day, remains an emotional challenge for Sheinfeld. Every year, and on the same day, he shows his respect with a visit to the Thornhill cemetery.

“There were no other injuries unless you include the mental devastation we suffered. I have that image in my mind – and it will never go away. Baseball took my friend away, but it galvanized my desire to help others – and I have done that, over the years, through coaching and volunteering my time.”

In Canada, National Volunteer Week is set for April 14 to 20. The Coaches Association of Ontario joins with others, in recognizing almost 25 million people who volunteer their time in an assortment of ways throughout communities across the country. Sheinfeld is among that group.

Explaining “it’s in my DNA”, Sheinfeld had always wanted to give youngsters the same good fortune that he received. He had some experience in coaching, with his initiation to that responsibility, focusing on helping 12-year-olds.

As for Sheinfeld, who is a busy person with more than 20 years of experience in sales and business development, his duties include managing sales, business development, and growth strategies for a leading recruitment and staffing firm that specializes in software and information technology solutions. Formerly employed with TeamTek, he is now Director of Sales for High Cliff Partners.

When it comes to volunteering, he hasn’t backed away.

Married, and the father of two children, his busy life includes 26 years in voluntary work ranging from conducting baseball evaluation camps to coaching to the responsibilities as the Director of Baseball for the Vaughan Vikings.

“My objective in baseball has always been to create a place where young people can have fun, thrive in an easy environment and improve their skills by learning from people, like me, who know the game,” said Sheinfeld. “Coaching is deep in my heart, and I want players to become better people, gain confidence, and enjoy playing baseball – like it did for me.”

When talking with Sheinfeld about his biggest highlight as a coach, here’s his response.

“As a coach, I have been fortunate to have dealt with minor issues,” he said. “Maybe it’s because, as coaches, we have outlined our expectations to players and their parents. The number of kids to make it to the major leagues is miniscule while the number of players who have improved in life learning skills is far greater.”

As for his dedication to volunteer work, Sheinfeld is the recipient of a series of awards. They include the “Volunteer of the Year” award from the Vaughan Vikings along with similar salutations from the York Simcoe Baseball Association, Ontario Baseball Association, and the City of Vaughan.

“I had wanted to give back, to be part of the sport and while I was tending to the duties as an umpire, that wasn’t enough,” he said. “I realized that coaching, volunteering my time to teach others, was what I had to do.”


David Grossman is a veteran multi award-winning Journalist and Broadcaster with some of Canada’s major media, including the Toronto Star and SPORTSNET 590 THE FAN, and a Public Relations professional for 45+ years in Canadian sports and Government relations.

I realized that coaching, volunteering my time to teach others, was what I had to do.