An NDG’er Comes Home

Last year, NDG Baseball’s Board of Directors decided to bestowe its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award on a native son who excelled for many years in his chosen profession. However, owing to his recovery from some health issues as well as the short turn around from the selection to the annual coaches’ banquet when such honours are normally awarded, it was mutually agreed that the award would be presented in 2015.

At the time of the selection, or shortly after, I was asked by Graham Nevin to work on media for this event despite stepping away from the NDG Baseball Board and I happily agreed.

Fast forward to July when I started to contact the usual media organizations. As is normally the case, I received zero feedback from the French language organizations and near 100% response from the English language organizations. I continue to regret that the French media is simply not interested in NDG Baseball nor a Quebecer whose career was of international reknown. I also continue to appreciate the English language media for the support it gives to NDG Minor Baseball when called upon.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Stu Cowan: It has been quite a journey for former major-league umpire Jim McKean

Montreal Gazette

Jim McKean’s world will come full circle on Saturday when he umpires a few innings of the N.D.G. Baseball Major Championship game for the under-12 age group at Loyola Park.

McKean, now 70, spent much of his youth at Loyola Park as a star athlete in baseball, football and basketball. As a 12-year-old, he pitched three no-hitters and posted a perfect 18-0 record while leading Trenholme Park to the city peewee championship and also quarterbacked the Trenholme Park football team to a provincial title. He later earned the Principal Trophy at Monkland High School after winning championships with the school’s football and basketball teams. And in 1963, as QB of the N.D.G. Maple Leafs, he led his team to the Eastern Canadian championship.

McKean would then spend two years with the Alouettes in the Canadian Football League, mostly as a punter and backup QB to Bernie Faloney. The Saskatchewan Roughriders signed him before the…

View original post 932 more words

What a Year!

What a year!

The last twelve months (or so) have been absolutely fantastic.

At the end of April 2014, NDG Baseball fêted Lionel Geller as he moved on to the next chapter in his life after dedicating thirty seven years to the children of Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace. The day of the intimate dinner, Borough Mayor Russell Copeman announced that Loyola-2 Field at Loyola Park will be renamed Lionel Geller field. This is truly a fitting way to honour such an icon.

In June I assumed the position of St. Patrick’s Society of Montreal Secretary, a position I was eager to do well in. We got the membership list in order, migrating it to an Access database from an Excel spreadsheet and trying our best to update members’ contact information.

However that gig was cut short in the Fall. There was some movement at the upper levels of the Society’s board and, after which, I was invited to continue sitting as an Officer of the corporation but now as a Vice President. It has been a pleasure to sit as a vice president. I continue to learn about the organization each and every day. My responsibilities have not changed all that much, although responsibility for the membership list remains with the new Secretary.

Also in the Fall I stepped away from my responsibilities with NDG Minor Baseball after dedicating some time as its president and director of communications. It was an absolute pleasure to be associated with the best Little League association in the province. The work those moms and dads accomplish for the good of their children and community is exemplary and it was a real joy to be a part of that recipe for success.

Now we all know that March is a very busy month in the Irish community. There are meetings, receptions, balls, luncheons, and parades. There are four parades that we generally associate with, in fact. The big Montreal parade, Hudson, Chateauguay, and Quebec City are all close to our heart. Unfortunately this Saturday we will not be able to attend the parade in Quebec City due to a scheduling conflict with the United Irish Societies’ Banquet.

My role in this year’s parade in Montreal was to act as a commentator for Bellmedia’s Bell Local production of the parade, along with longtime UIS member Richard McConomy, who has a background in acting to complement his legal career. His experience in this area put my mind at ease, even though prepared 18 pages of information on the various groups participating in the parade with the help of UIS Parade Director Patty McCann. In hindsight I may have overprepared for this assignment but it was worth the effort to keep my mind at ease.

Richard McConomy and Ken Quinn froze mightily in the performance of their parade day responsibilities.

Richard McConomy and Ken Quinn froze mightily in the performance of their parade day responsibilities.

The role as TV commentator took me away from walking in the parade. I have to say I had mixed feelings about not walking in the parade, the first time I failed to do so since I joined the UIS in 1992. Despite those mixed feelings and the freezing cold weather on parade day, I had an absolutely fantastic experience on the TV podium with Me. McConomy. His experience certainly made up for my lack of experience and general nervousness. I tip my hat to him, to roving reporter Catherine Cleland, and the entire crew associated with the production. If they ask me back next year I will gladly agree to do it. I may buy ski pants if the weather is this cold, though.

Doors Opening & Doors Closing

“When one door closes, another door opens; but we so often look so long and regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell

One door in my life is closing tomorrow when NDG Minor Baseball holds its Annual General Meeting. After sitting on its Board as Assistant Treasurer, President, or Director of Communications since 2006, the time is right to step aside to give another parent the opportunity to make a difference. Throughout these years, the organization was fortunate to regularly send teams to Little League National Championships and even more fortunate to see two teams advance to the Senior League World Series, making my job as Director of Communications that much easier.

I am thankful that, through my association with NDG Minor Baseball, I have become familiar with so many fantastic volunteers, with the local Borough employees, and with the local politicians. People such as Steve Glazer, Frank Martinez, Terry Doucet, James Rankine, Lionel Geller, and Bobby Titleman make a huge difference to the kids of the community through everything they do for the players, parents, and association.

There is one person who I met along the way who is the most special of them all. My first recollection of Carey Ashton was back in 2004 when his Major Lynx team was one win away from advancing to the Little League World Series at the National tournament in Brossard. To watch a man with Muscular Dystrophy coach a team of teenagers from a wheelchair is magical. To see a man with Muscular Dystrophy get thrown out of a provincial championship game over a pitch count violation is also surreal. He is the kindest, most patient man, who taught all his players life lessons they didn’t even know he was teaching. Had I not joined the Board of Directors I likely never would have met Carey, which would been unfortunate. I wish the new Board of Directors the best of success. I will be watching the association’s progress with great interest.

With this door closing, an already slightly opened door is opening a little wider. Since the summer of 2013 I sit on the Board of Directors of the St. Patrick’s Society of Montreal. This past June the Society and its members confirmed me as its Secretary, a humbling honour to say the least. The St. Patrick’s Society is the oldest of the “national” organizations in Canada, having come to life on March 17, 1834. The Society recently lost two Officers to resignation. As a result, this past Tuesday the Board was tasked with filling the vacant Treasurer and a vacant Vice President position. My colleagues have shown their confidence in my abilities by confirming me as a Vice President, one of three. Vice President is only a title. I continue to do the same things I was doing, for the most part.

While I look back at the closed door without regret and with great memories, I look forward to the open door with great anticipation for the Irish season to come. That’s from February 1 to April 1, right?

Where Were You Ten Years Ago?

Any baseball fan living in the Montreal area in 2004 remembers where he, or she, was 10 years ago today. After years of decline on and off the field due to many reasons, Major League Baseball relocated the franchise to Washington, DC.

After the disappointment of 1994, when the players’ strike shortened a season that surely would have seen Nos Amours go deep into the playoffs, owner Jeffrey Loria purchased a controlling interest in the team in 1999 from Claude Brochu. Loria seemed to do everything in his power for the Expos to fail in Montreal. He failed to close the deal on a new downtown ballpark, a definite must for the team’s long term viability. He failed to reach agreements on television and English radio broadcast for the 2000 season, reducing the team’s media visibility and depriving the team’s fans across the Montreal area of the opportunity to follow their favourite players.

It’s lucky for the Expos that, in 2002, Major League Baseball was obliged to field a team in the Metrodome in Minnesota. Failing that, both the Expos and the Twins would have been eliminated. Because of the complexities of scheduling a 162 game season for each MLB team, both teams on the chopping block were given a reprieve.

In December 2002 the MLB ownership shuffle took place. The Marlins’ John W. Henry purchased the Boston Redsox. The Expos’ Jeffrey Loria purchased the Florida Marlins and Major League Baseball purchased the Expos, unable to reduce the number of teams in the league before 2006 per the collective bargaining agreement signed with the Players Association in August 2002.

On September 29, 2004 MLB announced the franchise would relocate to Washington for the 2005 season, ending a thirty five year love affair between Montreal and Nos Amours. The final score that night in the final game in Montreal was unimportant. What was important, for the more than 31 000 fans in attendance including myself, was the chance to cheer for Nos Amours one more time. Many stayed long after the game was over, looking around the stadium nostalgically one last time.

Ten years later, baseball is still vibrant in Montreal. Baseball Quebec, the dominant youth baseball federation in the province of Quebec, would likely tell you it is a struggle to attract new players to baseball as would the leaders in Little League Quebec. It hasn’t been easy. Both federations are doing an admirable job.

Yesterday in NDG, ExposNation, Derek Aucoin, Easton, and NDG Minor Baseball hosted a very successful 2nd annual Pitch and Catch Rally at Loyola Park. Approximately 100 kids of all ages were given the chance to hit off former Major Leaguer Derek Aucoin for two hours. The number of ball players, people in Expos gear, and media in attendance clearly shows the interest in baseball at the highest levels is still here.

Now, if those 100 kids could invite two friends to play baseball with them next year, and those two friends invite two friends to play baseball with them next year, and so on and so on… the art of baseball will be that much stronger in 2015 and for years to come.

Little League Tournament Continues

The 7-team Little League Canada championship has concluded the round robin portion of the tournament in Valleyfield, Quebec, where the High Park Braves finished atop the leaderboard with a perfect 6-0 record followed by the NDG Major Lynx, the Southwest LL All Stars, and the South Vancouver All Stars all with 4-2 records. Because none of the three teams defeated both of their other opponents, the tie for 2nd was broken using the runs against ratio, total runs against divided by total defensive innings. The nod for 2nd went to the team from South Vancouver, leaving NDG and Southwest LL tied for 3rd, which Southwest LL takes as a result of their victory over NDG during round robin play. Final standings are:

High Park Braves 6-0
South Vancouver All-Stars 4-2
Southwest Little League 4-2
NDG Major Lynx 4-2
North Regina Little League 2-4
Lancaster Allstars 1-5
Les Elites de Valleyfield 0-6

Semi final action takes place tomorrow (August 9th) with the winners advancing to the championship game on Sunday (August 10th):

Semi Final 1 August 9 @ 13h00 NDG vs. High Park
Semi Final 2 August 9 @ 16h00 Southwest LL vs. South Vancouver
Championship August 10 @ 13h00 Winner SF1 vs. Winner SF2

If you’re a fan of baseball, from NDG, or find yourself with some free time on the weekend, the players in this tournament and the organizers will welcome you with open arms.

All games are taking place at Stade Roland-Boyer, formerly known as Parc Delpha-Sauvé.

The winners of this tournament advance to the Little League World Series, taking place in Williamsport, PA from August 14-24. No team from Quebec has represented Canada in this tournament since Valleyfield did in 1992.

Say it loud and say it proud: GO LYNX GO!

Little League Canada’s Little League National Championships

Earlier this month the NDG Major Lynx, a team of 11 and 12 year old boys based out of the Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace Borough and surrounding communities in Montreal playing under the NDG Minor Baseball League banner, steamrolled over their competition at Little League Quebec’s Little League Provincial Championships in Rouyn-Noranda. In the abbreviated 3 game tournament the Major Lynx outscored their opposition 56-0 on their way to the title.

The Provincial Tournament win earned the Major Lynx the right to compete at Little League Canada’s Little League National Championships, which are set to begin on Friday August 1st in Valleyfield, Quebec. The winner of this tournament advances to the famous Little League World Series, held in Williamsport, Pennsylvania later in August.

The road to Williamsport is never an easy one for any team from Quebec. No team from Quebec has won this tournament since Valleyfield took in in 1992. Despite the historical odds stacked against the Major Lynx, they have prepared all year for this opportunity and they are looking forward to the chance to build on the results from the 2004 Major Lynx, coached by Carey Ashton and his associates, who advanced to the championship game in Brossard, QC after finishing 2-3 in the round robin portion of that tournament, forcing a tie breaker game against Sydney Mines, a very exciting semi final victory against Langley, BC followed by a 4-1 loss to East Nepean in the championship game.

This year’s Lynx team schedule is as follows:

August 2nd @ 15h00 Team Quebec vs Host
August 3rd @ 18h00 Team Quebec vs Alberta
August 4th @ 15h00 Team Quebec vs Prairies
August 5th @ 15h00 Team Quebec vs Atlantic
August 6th @ 15h00 Team Quebec vs Ontario
August 7th @ 12h00 Team Quebec vs British Columbia

Playoffs take place on August 9th with the Championship Game on Sunday August 10th. Support the local boys from NDG, the Host Team from Valleyfield, and all the players visiting our province. It’s good baseball and our visitors will appreciate the support.