Montreal

Laval girls baseball team cries foul after dispute with local league

Les Tornades de Laval were told to prove they could play at the peewee A level by playing an exhibition game. They tied their opponent — but were still relegated to B.

Les Tornades de Laval wanted to play at the peewee A level this year, but were told they couldn't

Emily Fischer, left, and Sofia Siozos. Emily has been playing baseball for the last three summers. She and her teammates were looking forward to playing at a higher level this year.

Members of a girls baseball team in Laval and their parents say the girls are being treated unfairly after they were denied a chance to play at a higher level this season.

Les Tornades de Laval is an organization that fields baseball teams for girls aged eight to 15. The peewee level team, for ages 11 to 13, was supposed to play in an all-girls interregional league this summer. But the pandemic put those plans on hold, so the team enrolled in the local co-ed league.

The Tornades requested to play at the peewee A level instead of peewee B.

Emily Fischer, 12, plays third base, outfield, and pitches for the Tornades. After playing at the peewee B level last year, she was looking forward to moving up this year.

"There's so much more freedom, and a lot of rules in A that you don't have in B…. I find it's better for the future that we're going to have in baseball."

The rules are different at the two levels — in B, players can't take leads and can only steal once the pitch crosses the plate, which changes the way the game is played.

The league, run by Baseball Laval, decided the Tornades would need to be evaluated to ensure they could compete at the higher level.

An exhibition game was organized between the Tornades and the Laval Est team, a boys team. The league dispatched four evaluators, people with experience playing, coaching or both, to watch the game.

The Tornades were nervous and fell behind 9-4 after the first two innings. But they overcame the tough start to tie the game, 9-9.

"We felt really good about the game. We felt there was no way we couldn't play in A. So it was really sad when we heard that we couldn't," Emily said.

The evaluators determined both teams were B-calibre teams. But the Laval Est team belongs to an association, which can decide which level its teams play at — and chose to enrol the team in peewee A.

The Tornades do not belong to an association, so Baseball Laval's board of directors made the final decision about their fate.

In a statement, Baseball Laval president Christian Cyr said the recommendation was unanimous.

"This group of players, despite the fact that some of them are A-level players, should clearly be in B," he said.

"We all accepted the aim of the evaluation and its possible conclusions, including the regional representative of women's baseball and the director of the Tornades."

Changing the rules

Fiona Brooks, Emily's mother, said what is particularly upsetting about the situation is that the girls were told one thing — that if they could compete, they could play — but it didn't turn out that way.

"They proposed something and then changed the rules as we went along. It just seems very dishonest," she said.

Some parents were upset that the girls had to be evaluated to begin with, a practice Baseball Laval said is not out of the ordinary.

Tornades coach Steven Desaulniers said the girls were willing to play at the higher level even if it meant losing all the time. But he made the request because he believes they have potential, and he still thinks they could have kept up.

"Unfortunately, because of this decision, in my opinion, the girls won't progress as quickly," he said.

The interregional league they were supposed to play in this summer and the Jeux de Québec — postponed until next year due to the pandemic — would have used peewee A rules, which are closer to regular baseball rules. 

Desaulniers said he plans to teach them those rules anyway and organize exhibition games against teams in the region so the girls can put them into practice.

Last week, the Tornades played against another girls team using A rules. That game ended in a tie.

The Tornades will play in the B division this season along with seven other teams. (Submitted by Les Tornades de Laval)

Case closed

Baseball Laval said it considers the issue closed. Baseball Québec, the provincial governing body, said it supports the decision made by the local league.

The Tornades' 14-game regular season starts Thursday. Theirs is one of eight teams in the peewee B division.

Emily says at the end of the day, as long as she's playing baseball with her friends, she's happy. But ideally, things would have turned out differently.

"It would have been easier, we would have avoided all the drama, if they just let us play in A like they said."

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