By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
The number of Oshawa youth interested in playing baseball continues to grow, but the bigger question may be where they will all have space to play.
Baseball Oshawa president Ken Babcock says he expects around 1,200 youth to play minor baseball in the city this summer.
However, due to a shortage of diamonds in the city, the local organization has had to turn away players, specifically in the mosquito, peewee and bantam programs.
“It’s the pee wee diamonds, full-sized diamonds, and diamonds with mounds [we are lacking],” Babcock notes.
However, Babcock’s call for more facilities is in contrast with recommendations in the document that the city is currently using to address recreation needs over the next 15 years.
The city’s Parks, Recreation, Library and Culture Facility Needs Assessment, which was endorsed by council in 2015, states that no new diamonds are required through 2031.
However, city officials have described the assessment as a ‘living document’ and those recommendations could change over time.
But for Babcock, the time is now.
“There hasn’t been any movement on the diamonds that we really need,” he says. “As the president [of Baseball Oshawa], I’m more disappointed than frustrated. When we have a need, we’d like to be able to provide.”
Last season, several local teams missed out on home playoff games because Lakeview Park was booked for other events such as Ribfest and Autofest.
While Babcock acknowledges the importance of those events, he says teams are “losing home field advantage” in the playoffs.
And the diamond shortage he is concerned with is not a new narrative.
“This has been going on for 10 years,” he adds.
Babcock says having to cap programs may lead to players heading to other communities.
A possible destination could be Whitby, which has more baseball diamonds proportionate to population than Oshawa.
Babcock does give credit to the city for improvements made to existing facilities.
“The city has been really helpful on that,” he says.
Even with the diamond woes, baseball is evidently strong in Oshawa.
“Our goal from day one was to develop a program and offer a quality program. We are starting to see the fruits of those decisions,” Babcock says. “We have four elite programs, and we’re seeing overall success out of a lot of rep teams and select teams down throughout the system.”