For many Oshawa residents, baseball is more than just a game.
For some, it’s a family affair, a way to volunteer, or time out in the nice summer weather playing a game they love.
But for others, it’s a religion.
This year, Baseball Oshawa is celebrating its 70th anniversary. The organization was founded in 1949, and the Second World War had ended only a few years earlier. Tensions were beginning to run high between the worlds two biggest super-powers: the U.S. and Russia.
So what could people do? They needed an escape.
People turned in many directions – to hobbies, religion or the like. But some turned to baseball, and thus, Baseball Oshawa was born.
Originally called the Oshawa Legion Minor Baseball Association, Baseball Oshawa has been celebrating the milestone anniversary throughout the season.
“That includes everything from crest branding the logo on the uniforms, to celebrating our history – that’s mainly what we’ve been trying to do,” says Ken Babcock, president of Baseball Oshawa.
It started with several events early on in the season such as Baseball Day and a reunion.
“We also directed our uniforms to include a 70th anniversary look,” he says. “It went to a baby blue retro uniform which was prominent for years when major league teams wore baby blue. It’s been a big hit – we might even keep it for a couple of years because people like it so much.”
The organization has been running a social media campaign where they post historical articles written about the organization.
These articles share stories about triumphant wins, stand out players, and some of the city’s greatest teams.
According to Babcock, the articles go all the way back to the 1950s.
Babcock is looking forward to the 15U baseball national championships, which are to be held in Oshawa this year.
“The best 15-year-old kids in the country will be in Oshawa, and that’s pretty exciting,” he says.
Some special events that have already happened, include a recognition night for three of the city’s most successful teams.
“The 20th anniversary, the 25th anniversary and 35th anniversary of three teams that won Ontario championships,” says Babcock. “It was a really special night at the stadium.”
Being a storied organization, Babcock says he is trying to figure out exactly how many championships Baseball Oshawa has won, but hasn’t squared up the exact figure yet.
“I know that it probably is closer to 40 than it is to 30, but I don’t know for sure,” he says. “We’re going to celebrate that when we find out what it is.”
Babcock says a total of 11 players in Baseball Oshawa’s history have been drafted, signed or scouted by Major League Baseball teams.
“We’ve had hundreds of kids go on to play ball on scholarships,” he adds.
Over that time, only one player from Oshawa has made it to the majors.
Andy Stewart made it to the show in 1997, where he played for the Kansas City Royals.
In eight at bats, the catcher had two hits, one of which went for a double.
He also played on Canada’s Olympic team in 2004 in Athens, Greece, where he hit .416.
Stewart also spent time coaching in the Toronto Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates organizations.
Baseball Oshawa hosts several tournaments in recognition of people of significance, such as Jim Lutton and Troy May, who died in a car accident in 2006.
Both Lutton’s number 13 and May’s number 20 have been retired by Baseball Oshawa.
Others to have their numbers retired include number zero Mark Orton, Ted McComb, (1), Ted Stone (10), Jim Shaw, (15), Bernie McGuire, (35), Doug Stone, (40), and Gary Carroll, (41).
Babcock sees big things for some players in the Baseball Oshawa organization.
“There’s a lot of good players,” he says. “Jacob Miller’s the latest ultra-talented player.”
Babcock notes Miller is only 16-years-old, but plays on the 18U team, where he leads the premier division with 41 RBIs.
Carter Arbuthnot has also stood out offensively. He leads the division with a .439 average and a .506 OBP.
Jamie May, son of Troy, currently coaches the 18U Elite squad and recently became the fastest coach in the Elite Baseball League of Ontario’s history to reach 100 wins.
May played for the Legionaires until he was 16, when he spent two years playing for the Ontario Blue Jays. He then came back and finished out his time as a player in Oshawa.
For him, playing for the Legionaires is special.
“My dad was pretty big into Baseball Oshawa… He passed away in 2006, and I’d say that’s one of the biggest things that got me into coaching,” says Jamie. “I was always around. He used to coach a lot of the Oshawa teams… he won a ton of championships with them and I used to always be at the field.”
Baseball Oshawa has been a huge part of Jamie’s life since he was a child.
“So that was how I grew up. I was at the field pretty much from when I was born until I could play, and then I did as soon as I could, so I’ve been living with baseball my entire life. It’s always been Baseball Oshawa too, that’s all I’ve known,” says Jamie.
Right now, two of the three Elite teams from Oshawa are in first place, with Jamie’s 18U squad going 13-4 in 17 games, the 16U squad has a 13-1 record, and the 15U team in third with a 13-6-1 record.
“We’ve enjoyed a really positive year, and just taking a step back and celebrating the anniversary,” says Babcock.
At the end of the day, Babcock says all they want is for the youngest residents to be able to put on a glove and a hat, and “just play baseball.”