Back in the late 70s and early 80s, the East York Baseball Association rep team was a force to be reckoned with. The team’s name alone would strike fear into the hearts of opposing players, said former player Chris Menary, who is now the head coach of the Minor Mosquito (9-year-olds) team.
The EYBA has produced talents such as Rob and Rich Butler, who both made it to the major leagues, including short stints with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Menary has recruited some members of the teams he played on, including the Butler brothers, to try to restore the rep team’s winning tradition. They have also landed the Blue Jays as a sponsor to drum up interest.
“We’ve brought back a lot of the players that played with us and they’re involved in coaching and player development,” Menary said.
Despite such a proud history, the EYBA’s numbers have been dwindling recently, especially at the rep level. Menary said he’s only got 10 spots filled on the roster and is looking to field up to 15 kids on the team.
“Back when me and Rob played we’d have 30 kids trying out, and even though you made the team the previous year, the coach would come to you the next year and say, ‘you need to earn the position,’ so you went in there fighting for a position.”
Now it seems the team is fighting for players.
One possible reason for the decline has been soccer’s increasing popularity, as there are now more kids in East York signed up to play soccer than baseball.
Menary said the EYBA has no problem finding players for house league play, but they have more trouble attracting them to play rep ball.
“I guess one of things we haven’t done as baseball people in Ontario is educate people about what rep ball is about,” he said.