Although the 2021 baseball season was a strikeout for teams in the Lac La Biche Minor Baseball Association, a month-long training camp has proved to be a base-level replacement.
It’s not league games and travel and networking, says association president Ali Fyith, but the June to August, twice-weekly training session on community diamonds is a great way to increase skill levels to be ready for next season.
The practice session started on June 15 and run to the end of July. They are for U9 to U18 team levels, and have had pretty good attendance, says Fyith.
While playing on the diamonds may be reduced this season, back-and-forth discussion about the playing fields continues to be in full swing.
In May, Lac La Biche County council approved the McArthur Park Master Plan. The five-year plan for the green-space in the heart of the Lac La Biche hamlet will see the 75 year old Main-1 baseball diamond removed to make way for open spaces, walking trails, picnic areas and family-themed leisure activities. The entire park area will see a makeover.
Since the decision to go ahead with the plan, councillors and municipal administration have stressed that the makeover is a five-year project and the remaining ball diamonds — the Main 1 full-size baseball diamond, and a the smaller Main 2 slo-pitch diamond — likely won’t be removed for at least two years.
Fyith, other members of the baseball association and hundreds of residents who signed a petition calling for the Main 1 diamond to remain, say they are will use that time to continue their fight to keep the traditional playing field.
The fight, which has already included a fundraising campaign, a petition and several public meetings with municipal councillors, is expected to grow, says Fyith.
“Popularity of baseball in our community has always been big, and it continues to grow,” he said last week, commenting that he was saddened to have to make the decision to cancel the 2021 season — but pleased to see good numbers at the month-long training sessions.
That popularity, he hopes, could cause the current council’s decision to be overturned … saying the issue has gone from a sporting one to a political one.
“With the elections coming up, if there’s a new government that comes in… who knows? It might be different,” he said, disappointed that the current council would vote on such a big issue just months prior to a municipal election.
In recent weeks, the $16.5 million Bold Center sports fields project has seen some cost over-runs. The project which has been in development for more than three years will see three baseball fields — one that was recently adjusted to accommodate adult-level baseball teams — a natural grass playing field, an artificial turf football field, a running track and a campsite. The project is expected to be completed later this year. Current cost-overruns are said to be directly related to the substantially increased costs on raw materials during the third and final construction phase.
For the last month, the Lac La Biche Minor Ball Association has been using the Main 1 diamond, as well as Main 2 and the two diamonds at the Aurora Middle School for their training sessions. Leading up to the sessions, municipal crews did fix several areas in and around the Main 1 area, including maintenance to the bleacher seating section and fresh paint.
As the association, its supporters and municipal officials continue to discuss the issue over Main 1, Fyith will continue to pitch the need for more attention to the existing diamonds. He says the Aurora diamonds have been part of several municipal budget cycles, but the fields continue to be in poor shape, “for a ball town.”