Bennington Heights Park revamp benched, for now

Leaside Baseball looks to talk with Blue Jays regarding funding

Leaside Baseball Association might have to wait until next year to revitalize the diamond at Bennington Heights Park.

A proposal submitted by the league in May to the Jays Care Foundation’s Field of Dreams program for a grant to cover the estimated $100,000 cost of a new screen, benches, spectator stands and a field redo was turned down, much to the chagrin of league president Howard Birnie.

Leaside put in the request due to unprecedented growth the league has experienced over the past two years, Birnie said. The LBA absorbed players at the rookie ball and mosquito levels from the folded softball league. Disappointed in being turned down by the Blue Jays-affiliated program he asked for a meeting, to find out “if there was any specific reason we didn’t get the grant and should we continue to apply.”

Jay Stenhouse, the Blue Jays’ vice president of communications, said via email that “it is difficult to decline the applications of deserving organizations that do great work for the children of our communities,” and while the LBA was not successful in the granting process this year, “we are in discussions with their representatives regarding that decision.”

The two sides were set to get together Sept. 8, but a miscommunication led to the meeting not taking place.

In 2013, the Jays Care Foundations donated more than $772,000 to charitable and community groups across the country. Scarborough Baseball League, Smyth Park, Toronto Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club and St. Albans Boys and Girls Club all benefited. Royal York Baseball League, one of more than 60 applicants this year, was granted money for work on Connorvale Park in Etobicoke.

Birnie said he is still optimistic Leaside can get a grant from the Blue Jays, but added he’ll wait until they meet in the near future to make any further decisions with his executive.

“We’ve been growing like crazy in these younger age groups and there’s concern about running the programs with the proper park space,” he said. “We just practise on [Bennington] right now, because it’s not really suitable for games.

“That leads us to a sort of, what’s the problem now,” he added. “Let’s wait and see, so we get a better idea of how to proceed.”

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Posted: Sep 26 2014 2:58 pm
Filed in: Sports
Edition: Toronto