North Toronto baseball grows

[attach]1440[/attach]One of Toronto’s largest baseball associations is witnessing another growing year in terms of kids joining the league’s ranks.

Over a thousand rep and house league players from across Forest Hill, Lawrence Park and North Toronto will be running the bases this summer.

It’s a time of the year that North Toronto Baseball Association president Stewart Lunan looks forward to.

“I enjoy the overall ambience of kids enjoying themselves,” he said. “Every summer we find you get kids who come that don’t know what they are doing and by the end of the summer they do.”

Formed in 1986 after founder Tim Arnaud’s two sons found themselves on the Leaside Baseball Association’s waiting list, North Toronto’s league has accelerated like homerun ball leaving the diamond.

Toronto Baseball Association secretary-treasurer Howard Birnie is impressed by the growth North Toronto has seen.

“For a program that once died completely, it is now the biggest in Toronto,” he said.

Growth is good, but for Lunan the momentum behind the past 25 years has been due to volunteer work.

“Generally speaking we have a dedicated bunch of coaches, directors, sponsors, executives and we make it all work, all for the kids,” he said.

Still, what would an association be without some issue to solve.

Competing sport, soccer, shares many of the facilities with baseball, including Eglinton Park.

“We use something in the order of 13 municipal park diamonds, but of course one of our ongoing problems is securing enough to have our teams to play,” Lunan said.

Even though the baseball league as an amiable relationship with the North Toronto Soccer Club, scheduling conflicts do arise.

“We tend to get in each other’s ways because it’s hard to put them both out there,” he said, “but the city sometimes feels it’s possible and we sometimes feel it’s not overly safe.

“We do have other parks, but sometimes they run into renovation problems,” he added. “We’ve actually spent money on them ourselves as an organization to upgrade them, to make them more safe.”

Still, kids aged 6 to 19 years will have enough hardball this season to keep the bats swinging and bases loaded.

“That spate of nice weather we had made everybody anxious, and of course as soon as the Blue Jays get into spring training and start sending out their group ticket prices, entice us to go to their games,” Lunan said.

The only other problem: Mother Nature.

“Our general outlook for the season is as long as the weather holds relatively nicely — we don’t get swamped by rainfall — then our season should transpire smoothly and with considerable participation.”