Montreal

St-Leonard sees surge in popularity for youth baseball

While the debate about whether or not Montreal is a baseball town rages on, it appears the east-end borough of St-Leonard is turning into a baseball hood.

'We are growing at a tremendous capacity," says Baseball St-Leonard co-president Gerry Dupuis

Last year, for the first time ever, St-Leonard won the Midget 'A' Regional Championship. (Submitted by: Baseball St-Leonard)

While the debate about whether or not Montreal is a baseball town rages on, it appears the east-end borough of St-Leonard is turning into a baseball hood.

Participation in youth baseball in the borough has spiked in recent years and currently has a waiting list for children wanting to sign up and play.

"We had a little bit of difficulty after the Expos left," Baseball St-Leonard co-president Gerry Dupuis told CBC Radio's Homerun host Sue Smith. "But we've had a tremendous appetite for baseball in the last five, six years and we are growing at a tremendous capacity."

Baseball St. Leonard co-president Gerry Dupuis (left) with the late former Expos general manager Jim Fanning in 2012. (Submitted by: Baseball St-Leonard)
In 2007, the organization had only a handful of teams across its six categories. That number has since shot up to 24.

Dupuis says a grassroots campaign to get more youth involved in the sport has paid off.

"We almost folded as an association," Dupuis said. "But progressively we did a lot of word of mouth in English and French schools and started ramping up registrations."

More than a dozen children are on waiting lists hoping to find a summer team.

"We have neighbouring boroughs like Anjou and Montreal North that we can work with to see if they have spare capacity," Dupuis said, adding that the increase in participation is due to the community's willingness to get together and focus on more than just baseball.

"We've actually introduced various activities, post-game rituals," Dupuis said. "We bring snacks, bring soppressata (Italian salami), bring a couple drinks, and we actually enjoy our time in the summer."

A new diamond

Earlier this month, the city of Montreal unveiled a multi-million dollar, 10-year Baseball Action Plan to develop a grassroots love of baseball in the city.

Dupuis expects the fruits of that investment to start paying off this year.

"This year, we're going to be getting a new diamond to be playing baseball in," he said. "That's going to give us the opportunity to grow some more because right now we're at capacity."

With files from CBC Radio's Homerun

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