Family comes first for LaBatte

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:30 PM ET

WINNIPEG - Forgive the man who is about to become a first-time father for thinking family before fortune.

Not that Brendon LaBatte will miss out financially for deciding to sign a CFL pact with the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Thursday.

The three-time East Division all-star guard left the Blue Bombers to sign with Winnipeg’s arch-rivals because he could remain closer to his girlfriend, who is pregnant, and so she could stay closer to her own family.

“I didn’t want to put her into a situation where she’s at home with the baby and I’m on the road,” LaBatte said from Regina on Thursday. “And we have a great support network in Saskatchewan with our families here.

“I came to the conclusion that everything matters in my life more than money. There’s so much more to deal with than just football. I’m dealing with my life and what’s taking place.”

His girl friend, Amanda Bourassa, is due to give birth Aug. 4th.

LaBatte decided to sign with the Riders around midnight Wednesday.

“It’s a decision that keeps you up at nights and eats at you,” admitted the Weyburn, Sask., native. “It’s sad to leave those guys in the locker-room after experiencing the worst of the worst and the highest of the highs — well, almost at the Grey Cup. And I wish all those guys the best of luck.”

Bombers GM Joe Mack said Winnipeg’s offer was as good as, if not better, than the one LaBatte signed in Saskatchewan. It is speculated that LaBatte signed for between $170,000 and $190,000.

“It was nothing with the numbers and where we were at, although the negotiations were a little slower than I would have liked,” said the one-time CFL all-star. “But I have nothing but respect for Mr. Mack.

“It’s never easy to pick up and change, and come into the unknown. And I have nothing but good things to say about Winnipeg. If not for them taking a shot at me four years ago, I wouldn’t be in this situation right now. I apologize to the fans for coming up short in the Grey Cup last year. But I’m sure they’ll get back there again.”

Mack said he is sorry to lose LaBatte but understands the reasons for his decision.

“That was a very emotional decision for him,” Mack said. “We had talked to Brendon for a year and a half trying to get him re-signed … But he’s from Saskatchewan, my understanding he has a girlfriend in Regina that he’s very close to.

“Brendon’s was a very personal decision, which I totally respect.”

The Bombers had already made contingency plans.

“We anticipated maybe potentially losing him,” he said. “In football, you always have to be prepared for something like that. I mean, you can have a player go down with an injury tomorrow, so you have to have somebody in the pipeline to step in there.”

Mack said such Canadian O-linemen as Chris Greaves, Chris Kowalczuk, Paul Swiston, Justin Sorensen and Brendan Dunn could be ready to step in.

“We have five guys that we think are on the cusp of being able to play and now’s the time for them to step up,” he said. “So, would we like to have had Brendon come back? Sure. But do we have a contingency that we feel good about? Absolutely.”

But, not one of them is as good as LaBatte was when he first took to the CFL field.

Mack also attempted to land an experienced free agent O-lineman but failed. Speculation is that the Bombers may check out Tim O’Neill, another Canadian free agent.

The bottom line is, though, they can replace LaBatte with a live body, but they can’t really replace him with someone as good.


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