Time to leave Rose City behind?

Posted February 3, 2013

Time to leave Rose City behind?

Before I begin, let me say this is a little bit tongue in cheek. But I’m curious to what anonymous posters would think of this…

A few mad posters have hinted, and I’ll come right out and say it. It’s time for all minor ball north of peewee to leave Camrose.

Fifteen years ago this was pretty much the case. Towns like Armena, Rosalind, Heisler and Round Hill housed teams. Yes, because the towns had bigger rural populations, but also because Camrose lacked the facilities or desire to house “imports” from the rural areas.

Modeled after hockey, a trend over the past decade was to have kids come to a central bigger town such as Camrose if they got good. Soon, almost every team older than mosquito went to the bigger town. Coupled with dwindling populations baseball fields began to crumble.

All that remained were the patchwork fences and dirt with some men’s teams running the fields. The infrastructure now reaching a point of major re-investment soon.

And it may be coming.

Rosalind saw the benefit of putting money in, and having local guys leave Camrose for the small town to play men’s. A bit of renascance is happening in places like Armena and Ryley. A few years ago, what in hindsight has been a succesful venture, the Camrose Axemen left Armena for greener pastures and a better diamond in Camrose.

Is baseball taken for granted?

Now, is the City of Camrose letting it’s baseball infrastructure dwindle? To the point where it would make sense for some teams to test the waters of small-town Alberta again?

The Camrose Axemen, despite making it to the league final last year reportedly have to pay $50 per night and have to line the diamond themselves. Two years ago they had to use their own tarp to cover the field in an attempt to save the infield.

The Roadrunners get last dibs on booking, which is fine, the kids and Axemen deserve first shot I suppose, but couple with soccer tournaments and practice nights, the Roadrunners generally end up unable to schedule make-up games.

The infield is rock hard. The shale too thin. What could be one of the nicest infields feels dangerous to be on most nights. Yeah, I’m a wussy. But it’s like playing on concrete astro turf. The lights, when used once or twice a year produce an almost dangerous mix of funniness and sure death with shadows produced as the field and scoreboard are meant for football.

More investing on the way

Rumours of more improvements in Armena, and the slow but certain existence of a decent diamond in Round Hill could pave the way if two or three of the head haunchos wanted, to send a message to Camrose that we can’t be taken advantage of any longer.

Baseball fills Camrose’s docket 5-7 nights per week during the summer. This brings in hundreds if not thousands of dollars to both the city in fees and money to restaurants, bars, gas stations and liquor stores, if you will. Yet, the investment back into baseball isn’t there besides the hard work of volunteers and parents.

Teams like Bantam, Midget and the Camrose Axemen could see the benefits of playing in Armena under an agressive lease. What they may pay in the same or a bit higher fees, would bring their umpire costs down $200 to $300 per season. They would be 20 minutes closer to the city and the fast-growing southern suburbs of Edmonton such as Beaumont, New Sarepta and Sherwood Park while still accessing Camrose’s local talent.

Power in numbers

If a group of five teams came together and pooled their resources toward a shared community diamond, now under the auspices of the County, could we see a diamond and baseball-first mentality that grows into something more?

It is true, the Armena diamond was not up to snuf three years ago when minor ball reps slammed our small hamlet at a meeting and never came back. But last year was the best I’ve ever seen it. And that was with a few amazing volunteers and a few of us dragging the field with our cars.

Imagine what it coud be with more of you involved.

Yes, I am bias. Yes, I see a day perhaps when minor ball returns to Armena. It would take guts, it would take more work than simply handing over $50 and dealing with the same stress we deal with in Armena (lining the fields and looking after it ourselves), but the teams are treated as separate and competing entities in Camrose.

Tongue in cheek

Certainly ala a Daryl Katz moment, the teams could at least cite the improvements to existing rural diamonds as leverage to negotiate a better deal in Camrose. Having a nice infield and a better light setup now that football is over could make it attractive for major Baseball Alberta or Western Canada events.

If not, you could always take your ball, your money and your dream of a rural field next to the train tracks in Armena and make it a reality. It’s only a spade, some typing and time for some grant writing and your imagination away from making it the best place in Alberta to play baseball. But it can’t happen without numbers.

I enjoy your thoughts.

Posted on February 3, 2013 by Jason Buzzell

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