OTTAWA-The Baseball Canada Cup Opening Ceremonies at Labatt Park in London next Wednesday will include a banner presentation from Baseball Canada President Ray Carter declaring Labatt Park as “Canada’s Favourite Ballpark”.
The honour was bestowed upon Labatt Park and the residents of London in September 2011 when Baseball Canada held a contest to determine Canada’s Favourite Ballpark.
“When the contest was announced, it seemed obvious to us that Labatt Park, with its 135 year history, recognition as the world's oldest continuously operating ball park and the meticulous maintenance of the playing field by the City of London, would be a candidate for the recognition,” said Joe O’Neill who was largely responsible for the submission of Labatt Park.
After over forty ballparks from around the country were submitted to Baseball Canada for consideration, Labatt Park found itself amongst the final sixteen ballparks.
In the preliminary round Labatt Park won their match-up against entries from Prince George, BC; St. John’s, NL and Coaticook, QC by attaining 79% of the vote.
“The support we received from the London community was tremendous,” added O’Neill. “It far exceeded even our lofty expectations.”
In the semi-final round, the people of London spoke again as Labatt Park came up against Trois-Riviéres, QC and received 74% of the vote which set-up an all-Ontario clash with Thunder Bay’s Port Arthur Stadium for the right to be called Canada’s Favourite Ballpark.
“The media (print, radio and TV) all gave us huge amounts of coverage, which allowed us to marshal all our citizens to vote for the park,” explained O’Neill. “As we had to go through three rounds, it was complex, but the citizens in the community hung with us.”
With the town now buzzing with excitement as the final round got underway, an all-out campaign was orchestrated to get as many votes as possible in support of Labatt Park.
“The city politicians and staff, private businesses, citizens groups and community organizations got behind us, asking all their contacts to vote” said O’Neill. “In the end, our network of contacts was huge.
“We also received many calls and emails from people outside of London, who had visited the park and wanted to support us as they believed it was deserving of the recognition.”
The efforts paid off as Labatt Park received the majority of the vote amongst over 19,000 people that voted during the final voting period.
According to O’Neill the recognition of being named Canada’s Favourite Ballpark was a huge accomplishment for not only Labatt Park, but for the City of London and all its residents.
“Winning the contest was a big thing for this community,” he said. “It helped lift spirits and renew pride in our unique community.
“It helped with enrolment in minor baseball for 2012 and helped increase the awareness among people in the baseball community of what a precious municipal asset we have.”
O’Neill also went on to say that the victory gave Londoners a new appreciation for Labatt Park and provided recognition for the facility that hopefully will attract major baseball events like the Baseball Canada Cup in the future.
“We hope with this recognition, we will be firmly on the radar screen for more national and international events at ‘Canada's Favourite Ball Park’.”