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Legacy of Prescott sports families strives on diamonds and ice

At the end of the Brockville Bunnies' season a couple weeks ago, Prescott's Tyson Kirkby (second from left) was awarded the team's most valuable player award by (l-r) coaches Dan and Derreck Burns and manager Joe Hummel.

PRESCOTT - Over the years, the Town of Prescott and its neighbours have produced a number of top rank professional athletes, even a few who have made it to the big leagues, but in the amateur ranks, too, there have been many talented athletes who have distinguished themselves in local rinks and ball parks.

Prescott's Tyson Kirkby, 19, may be getting near the end of his sporting career in this neck of the woods but he has attracted enough attention with his play on the ice and on the diamond that he now has a chance to continue playing hockey and baseball down south.

"It's exciting to know there's interest out there," says Kirkby, who has received scholarship offers from NCAA Division III schools SUNY-Canton and the University of Southern Maine. "It makes you work even harder."

Both schools have excellent baseball and hockey programs, and scouts from both colleges have expressed interest in Kirkby playing both sports, an impressive testament to the consistently high-level of play Kirkby has been able to maintain over the past several years with both the Brockville Bunnies baseball team and the Kemptville 73s hockey club.

"We're proud of him," says Kirkby's father, Ryan. "He's made the most of his opportunities. He's worked at it and turned it into some good things."

Tyson may have had a bit of an advantage, though, as it's not every athlete who can count among his relatives such illustrious local sportsmen as Chick Kirkby, Tysons's great grandfather, and Leo Boivin, Tyson's great uncle. The ball diamond in Prescott is named for Chick and the hockey arena is named for Leo, so Tyson wasn't very old before he realized that sports might just be in his blood.

"It's really a big honour to be part of something like that," he said. "You want to live up to it."

This past summer, Tyson finished up his career with the Brockville Bunnies and took home the team's MVP trophy after ending the season with a .412 batting average. He also had 26 RBIs, three home runs and a remarkable 39 runs scored over the course of the summer. The Bunnies had a good season, finishing 30-17, a record made possible by a fantastic second half, which included topping a highly competitive field at a U19 tournament at Ottawa's Lynx Stadium in July.

The MVP award was a fitting book end to Tyson's tenure with the Bunnies, which began three years ago with him winning Rookie of the Year honours. That same year, Tyson was also recognized for his dedication and hard work in his rookie season with the Kemptville 73s, when the team named him the winner of the Ryan Forbes Heart and Desire award.

"He's rather modest and quiet," says Laurie Kirkby of her grandson, "but when it comes to sports, he's very dedicated and he really shines out here."

Kirkby has just begun his third and final season with the 73s, and it got off to an auspicious start. In a Labour Day tournament in Ottawa, he was named third star of the first game and came away from the competition with a goal and two assists. With CJHL league play having just begun, Kirkby already has a goal and an assist on his record and a first star in one of the early games.

Clearly pretty good at both baseball and hockey, and likely to continue playing both in the United States next year, Kirkby still can't answer the question that is often posed to two-sport athletes - which one is his favourite.

"I've played both for so long, it's tough to say," says Tyson.

Fortunately, he won't have to choose, and he can continue playing both of the games to which he's dedicated the better part of his teenage years, and it's also good fortune for his family, who enjoy following all his hits, catches, checks and goals.

"We've always followed him with great pleasure," says Laurie. "It's been a big thrill for us."

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