Loyola Park ball field named after longtime volunteer Lionel Geller

A baseball diamond at Loyola Park was renamed for longtime NDG volunteer Lionel Geller on Saturday. Geller volunteered with NDG baseball for 37 years.

Field renamed to honour Geller's 37 years of volunteering with NDG baseball

Notre-Dame-de Grace Mayor Russell Copeman presents Lionel Geller with a plaque to mark 37 years as a volunteer with NDG baseball. (Andrea Bellemare/CBC)

Hundreds of kids who have played sports in Notre-Dame-de Grâce have been helped by Lionel Geller's tireless efforts.

Geller started coaching minor baseball in 1976, and has volunteered in many different positions with NDG Baseball, including four different stints as president of the league.

On Saturday, the borough honoured him by renaming the baseball field at Loyola Park Lionel Geller Field. 

"It's absolutely fantastic," said Geller. "Usually you have to die before they name a park after you, but in my case I'm still alive and I'm happy to be here. I mean it's just overwhelming."

Lionel Geller gets ready to throw the first pitch of the Major House League Championship game on the newly-named Lionel Geller Field at Loyola Park in NDG on Sunday. (CBC)

Borough mayor Russell Copeman presented Geller with a plaque, shaped like home plate, honouring Geller, and bearing his motto, "It's all about the kids."

Geller said that, over his 37 years of volunteering with NDG Baseball, he's seen kids that he used to coach return as adults and tell him how much he has helped them.

"Not only have I had kids come back and tell me that, but I've had their kids come back and I've coached their kids. Because when you're around as long as I have been that's what happen," said Geller.

"If I'd stayed a little longer, I probably could have grand kids of those kids come back."

'A humble man'

Geller stopped volunteering with NDG Baseball in 2014. He is a retired engineer, and a former mathematics teacher at Dawson College. 

He started coaching minor hockey in 1979, founded the Dawson College women's hockey program in 1997 and was general manager for a decade. Geller still tutors students on the women's hockey team.

Along with Moe and Barbara Yoffee, Geller co-founded a skating program for people with intellectual disabilities.

"Lionel is a very humble man," said Ken Quinn, the past president of NDG Baseball. 

A team of Blue Jays waits for Lionel Geller's plaque to be unveiled on Saturday at Loyola Park in NDG. (Andrea Bellemare/CBC)

"I know what Lionel's put into the organization over 37 years, the Saturday mornings, the weekday evenings," said Quinn. "If there was a child ... whose family couldn't afford to enrol their child into baseball, he made sure it happened one way or another," he said. 

"When it got to the end of the summer, around this time of the year, when it was warm and you're tired, two nights a week and in games, all you had to do is look at Lionel and he had, and does have, a smile on his face," he said. "That says it all, I mean baseball's his passion."

The fresh air and sunshine is a big draw for Geller, who said he prefers baseball over hockey.

"It gives you character, that's the main thing it gives you. It teaches you to be honest, it teaches you to be fair and it lets your character grow," he said.