The durability of Canadian baseball

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:40 PM ET

Paul Quantrill will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday morning.

The timing couldn’t be better.

The Port Hope native and former Toronto Blue Jay was one of the more durable pitchers in big league history. The New York Yankees ran the rubber-armed reliever out to the mound a club record 86 times in 2004.

And that quality really is the theme of Canadian baseball right now.

Where’s the durability?

The Montreal Expos are long gone, the franchise now in Washington, where everyone’s aboard the Stephen Strasburg pitching/hype train.

Canada’s lone remaining major league team — the Blue Jays — has a winning record, is hanging around in the tough American League East race, but has been drawing horribly at the Rogers Centre box office.

These aren’t the same SkyDome crowds from the 1990s inductees Quantrill and Roberto Alomar remember.

People are still watching the games on TV, but is that live experience being lost? Is there a trickle-down to smaller ball communities like St. Marys?

“I know that Jays president Paul Beeston and GM Alex Anthopoulos really took this year to focus on the on-field product — that’s really where they’ve invested all their energy and attention,” Canadian Hall CEO Tom Valcke said, “and I think you’ll see probably by the end of this year, Paul will go back to looking at the marketing the club and doing what needs to be done to fill those seats again.”

Valcke and Beeston are in the same boat. The Canadian Hall, which is honouring the two ex-Jays plus late former Minnesota Twins owner Calvin Griffith (whose ballclub was under threat of contraction a few years back) and stats man Allan Roth in St. Marys on Saturday — is constantly looking at its own viability.

A group of business students from Laurier University in Waterloo studied the feasibility of the Hall’s plan for their Master’s degrees.

“You’re always looking at what the future holds,” Valcke said. “I have my vision I believe in but I wanted someone to look at it independently and without emotions. That’s so important to the process.”

The first pillar of the Hall, after turning the farmhouse on Church St. into a museum, had been to develop the site into a baseball complex. That’s done.

The St. Marys Cement Plant Field, which will feature a game between the Whitby and St. Marys bantams at 4 p.m. Saturday, and its satellite fields on the 32-acre venue are in play.

The current phase of the plan is to make it the home of Canadian baseball — a magnet for kids’ tournaments and summer camps from all over the place.

In W.P. Kinsella’s ficticious Field of Dreams in Iowa, the players seemed to appear right out of cornstalks. In real-life St. Marys, donation money is aimed at a spot to house players in a baseball academy/dormitory with 64 convertible rooms that can sleep 200.

That’s the revenue stream Valcke sees as the ticket to a state-of-the-art interactive Hall of Fame that can display a much larger chunk of the collected artifacts and exhibits.

The kids in the dorm idea is, to Valcke, the lifeblood for a bigger, better — and more durable — Canadian Hall of Fame and Museum.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ryanpyette


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