By Martin Cleary
Baseball and politics are unlikely running mates.
But not in the eyes of Thomas Cooper, who certainly knows to make the perfect pitch in both fields of play.
The Toronto resident will enter his second season of baseball with the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees in September, after he used his pitching skills to contribute to the program having its best-ever season in 2022 and reaching the OUA East Regional final.
When he’s away from the diamond, Cooper, 19, also developed an interest in politics while in high school. He’s enthusiastic about making his pitch for specific candidates during various election campaigns and enjoys working directly for elected officials.
Cooper arrived at his first Gee-Gees’ baseball training camp last September as an all-round individual.
His high school graduate records, baseball achievements and community service earned him the 2022 R. Jack Middlemass Scholarship from Baseball Ontario. The scholarship money was applied to his university tuition.
At six feet, four inches, Cooper is a hard-throwing, power pitcher, who’s comfortable as a starter or coming out of the bullpen for the Gee-Gees. Cooper’s fastball, slider and change-up can be deceptive.
While playing for various teams in the Greater Toronto Area, Cooper attracted interest from coaches at the NCAA Division 2 and 3 and junior college levels. But he wanted to stay in the province and, after touring the University of Ottawa and Carleton University campuses, he elected to go with the former.
“When I was deciding whether or not to go to the U.S., I was concerned about the level of Canadian university baseball,” Cooper said in a recent interview. “There’s a lack of understanding about just how good (Canadian) university baseball is.
“The competition level is high. You go to a University of Ottawa and Carleton University game and there’s such an atmosphere. There’s bench chirping and a sense of competitiveness. I was definitely proud to play for them (Gee-Gees).”
At the same time Cooper was maturing as a pitcher, he was developing an interest in politics. Living in the Scarborough sector of Toronto, he was struck by the social disparity in the community. He wished he had the ability to make changes, including seeing more teenagers head to university.
He did initiated a program where he assembled care packages to be distributed to homeless youth.
Some day, he would like to run as a candidate in Scarborough Southwest, which is represented at the federal level by MP Bill Blair.
“I’m not knocking him, but I feel on a national level Scarborough Southwest has been underserved,” Cooper said. “I feel Scarborough Southwest deserves more. It’s not a knock on an individual as sometimes people are left out.”
In last month’s Toronto mayoral election to replace John Tory, Cooper was part of the campaign team for Olivia Chow, who earned the most votes at 269,372 and defeated Ana Bailao by more than 34,000 votes.
“I feel I positively impacted and helped Chow get elected,” he added. “I feel she will make an overall positive impact.”
During the 2022 Ottawa municipal election, Cooper was busy canvassing for Kanata South candidate Erin Coffin, who finished second to incumbent Allan Hubley.
After working on the Ottawa election, he accepted an internship to work last fall in the Ottawa office of Vancouver Kingsway MP Don Davies.
“I did it all, everything else that no one wanted to do, phone calls and helping with letters,” he said with a slight laugh. “He (Davies) is the (NDP) health critic and I worked on the dental-care bill.
“It was a unique opportunity. I learned how the legislation passed and how the NDP worked with the Liberals.”
Before working with Davies, Cooper volunteered in the office of Scarborough Southwest MPP Doly Begum. He became a member of Begum’s provincial youth cabinet, which spoke about provincial issues and policies concerning communities in Scarborough and Ontario.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 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 High Achievers “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 firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.