HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
The Toronto Blue Jays may not win the World Series this season, but they will always be considered champions in the eyes of the Ottawa baseball community.
Thanks to the Jays Care Foundation, which is the charitable arm of Canada’s only Major League Baseball club, three baseball organizations in the city have received sizable grants in the past three years to upgrade their playing diamonds.
South Ottawa Little League is the latest to slug a home run pitch from the Jays Care Foundation, which has invested more than $15 million over the past 10 years across all 10 provinces and two territories.
The Foundation announced in the spring that South Ottawa Little League was one of 14 organizations in seven provinces to receive an infrastructure grant to benefit young players through its Field of Dreams program.
South Ottawa Little League applied for a grant of $97,000 to convert Ritchie softball diamond at Leitrim Park into a baseball diamond. They hope to receive a matching major capital grant from the City of Ottawa.
The association also plans to make a financial contribution to the project, which will install a grass infield and build dugouts. Once all of the financing is in place, the project could start within a year and be ready in the spring of 2023.
“It’s fantastic,” said South Ottawa Little League president Peggy Pratt. “The kids are so excited. This year, they’ve come through COVID. This project comes at the right time. It will be nice to get a shiny field. They deserve it.
“We had 500 register this season, which is similar to past seasons. Fall ball numbers are unprecedented across the city. The kids are so happy to be outside getting exercise.”
There are three softball diamonds at Leitrim Park and Ritchie was the logical choice for a playing field upgrade.
“We thought that facility has a lot of benefits,” Pratt added. “There’s lots of parking beside the (Leitrim) arena. We use the diamond and arena for umpire clinics, and there are washrooms.”
In 2019, East Nepean Little League received a Jays Care Foundation grant to replace the fencing behind home plate and build new dugouts at its Doug Frobel diamond.
West Ottawa Little League used its 2020 Jays Care Foundation grant to upgrade the infield, pitching mound, bullpen pitching mound and home plate, and install warning tracks and put stone dust under the spectator stands on its majors division diamond.
On a separate note, West Ottawa will play host to a Baseball Ontario All-Girls Clinic Sept. 26 from 9 a.m. to noon for players aged eight to 16.
Instructors will include current and former national team as well as Ontario team players. Baseball Ontario has run clinics in St. Catharines and Windsor, but this will be the first time in Ottawa.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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