By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
It was another successful year for Baseball Oshawa, but looking to the future, president Ken Babcock says facility issues will need to be addressed.
“In terms of the shortage of diamonds we are in a crisis situation,” Babcock concedes. “We’ve had to restrict registrations, particularly in our older divisions.”
The impact of the situation was evident the past two weekends, as a number of local teams could not play home playoff games because Lakeview Park was booked for Ribfest and Autofest.
Babcock says those are both ‘important events’ but it is “one of those things that adds insult to injury” when teams are forced to go on the road when they earned home field advantage.
Even with these issues, the organization enjoyed another spike in interest this past year.
“We had more than 1,100 registrations, which is another huge increase,” Babcock says.
In fact, registrations have increased by five times over the past decade or so.
“We are excited that baseball is in Oshawa in a big way.”
The success of the Toronto Blue Jays over the past few seasons has helped to improve baseball’s popularity all over Ontario.
“The last three years, the Blue Jays’ rise to success has created interest, of course. [increased registrations] in every centre can be attributed to that,” Babcock says. However, he believes Oshawa offers some of the best programs in the province, and that has contributed as well.
“The [Baseball Oshawa] brand is good and we have great programs. People are excited about baseball in this city.”
This summer has brought a number of tournaments to Oshawa, with Babcock estimating about $2 million in economic spin-off.
The city is set to welcome the 15U national championships in 2018 and 2019 in addition to recently hosting the first ever Elite Baseball League of Ontario All-Star Games earlier this month.
Babcock says these achievements are all signs that Oshawa is becoming a “centre” for baseball in the province.
But with all the good news still looms the problem of insufficient facilities.
Oshawa’s Parks, Recreation, Library and Culture Facility Needs Assessment, approved by city council in November 2015, recommends no new baseball diamonds should be constructed until at least 2031.
However, city officials have described the assessment as a ‘living document’ and those recommendations could change over time, something Babcock hopes to see.
An ultimate vision for Babcock is to see a large baseball complex built somewhere in the city, preferably the north end.
“City officials are aware of that. We are confident the city will follow through on the study and expand the diamond capacity,” he says.