BONNYVILLE – If it wasn’t for Jim Church and Travis Farrer, the baseball diamonds just west of the Town of Bonnyville’s off-leash dog park likely would not have been built.
In May of 2018, the pair approached Town of Bonnyville council asking if land could be set aside for additional diamonds to be built after registration numbers for Bonnyville Minor Ball ballooned to over 300 baseball and softball players.
At the time, 29 teams were sharing six diamonds and running into scheduling conflicts.
Following the request, the Town gave the green light and two baseball diamonds were built and pristinely kept by the association on the town’s west side. They are known as the Léon Paul Bougie Ballpark.
On June 16, four years later, one of those two diamonds in the ballpark has officially been named Church Field.
“Jim’s hard work and knowledge of diamond maintenance helped make the construction of the two new diamonds (behind) us a success,” said Farrer, at the sign unveiling on Thursday.
While Church’s efforts and hundreds of hours of in-kind labour were noted, so too were his contributions to the game itself.
“Dr. Church, Jim, or ‘Coach’ too many, is a humble, hardworking, passionate man who has spent the better part of his adult life giving back to this community we call home,” continued Farrer.
“He has provided children with opportunities and experiences that may have been missed had he not been championing youth sport.”
Church has been the recipient of the Baseball Canada Grassroots Coaching Award on two separate occasions for his dedication to the sport over the last 25 years.
Even after his four sons graduated from minor baseball, Church continued to coach, umpire and volunteer as a director of the minor baseball association.
Over the years, Church has also coached many teams to provincial championships, winning several silver medals, three provincial gold medals, and a trip to the Western Provincial Championship.
Farrer told those in attendance that he continued to do so “out of a love of the game and a commitment to ensuring younger generations of aspiring athletes had the same opportunities for involvement, growth, and team connection.”
So, with the approval from the Town of Bonnyville at the request of Bonnyville Minor Baseball, Farrer announced the field formerly known as the ‘midget diamond,’ would no longer be nameless.
“It will now be called Church Field.”
Trying to keep the unveiling ceremony a surprise, Church’s wife Chris blindfolded him on the way to the ballpark, where Town officials, community members and baseball players - current and former - were all gathered.
Arriving in full gear to umpire a game a U18AA game between the Bonnyville Braves and the Cold Lake Cardinals, Church said he was surprised to see a crowd and a covered sign.
Put on the spot for a few words, Church told the audience that while he didn’t feel that it should be his name on the sign, he was honoured to have his contributions recognized.
In prior years, Church had advocated to have a field name after Paul Heartt as a tribute to a young athlete who passed away from mesothelioma cancer.
Church also took the time to name all the coaches and assistant coaches he had worked alongside over the years, who also dedicated their time to the players and the game.
“Sports do so much for our kids,” he said. “And we’ve got kids that can go on to play college ball.”
Noticeably eager to start the game, Church finished his speech in true baseball fashion by saying, “Let’s play some ball.”
That evening, Church threw the first pitch of the game – before he umpired it.
In statement to Lakeland This Week before the ceremony, Farrer said, “Jim is an extremely humble man who doesn’t do it for the recognition but rather because it’s the right thing to do, and he believes that the youth is the future of a health community in the future.”
RELATED STORY: Two additional diamonds for Bonnyville Minor Ball