London Men’s Baseball League A Family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioSports.com

During its early years, the 1992-established London Mens Baseball League (LMBL) took a lot of hits when labeled as nothing more than a Walter Mitty loop for over-aged wannabees seeking a field of dreams.

The LMBL deserved more respect, and in fact during the past decade, the over-30 league now boasting 14 teams, 215 players and even a waiting list has matured to the point where even local elite athletes applaud its competitiveness.

There is no comparison between the LMBL and beer-league softball, but there is no denying that the LMBL is a family-oriented group, according to the league’s vice president Jamie Grenier.

Defending A Division champion Werewolves

“We don’t play on Mother’s Day, because most of the men in the league have wives or girlfriends, and we all have families. A lot of players have kids. So for us to say, let’s play ball on Mother’s Day, just wouldn’t fly,” said Grenier.

In fact, because the players – most in their 40s and 50s – have family obligations, each team must carry a minimum of 15 players and often rely on spares to fill in when roster players miss games due to family obligations. There’s even an annual workout and draft for newly-registered players.

“Our spare list grows as the season progresses,” said Grenier. “It’s typical for us to have a full league and to close registration well before our opening day (this year May 18). We’ve had to refund a number of players, because we’re full. But to accommodate them and add expansion teams, it will be difficult because of how hard it is to find diamond time in this city.”

Labatt Park is the LMBL’s crown jewel, but it also schedules games at Dan Pulham Field, City Wide Sports Park, Byron Optimist Sports Complex, Dorchester Field Of Dreams and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys. Grenier said the league is even eyeing St. Thomas as a possible location for regular-season games.

But without a doubt, LMBL players – from all walks of life and boasting a wide variety of baseball skills – consider Labatt Park, the pride of the Intercounty Baseball League and site of the world’s oldest continuous baseball grounds, their field of dreams.

“When you’re stretching and warming up, and the grounds crew are preparing the mound, watering and raking the infield, and the tractor is out there, it really feels like a dream,” said Grenier. “It’s hard to believe that they’re doing this for us! It really is a great feeling, looking at the scoreboard at Labatt Park and seeing your number and your team’s score. We really are spoiled.”

Grenier’s story is typical of many LMBL players. A 43-year-old utility player with the Orioles, Grenier will suit up for a fifth year. His minor baseball days were limited – just two summers at age 12 and 13 – and he brings some slo-pitch experience to the diamond. But most of all, he loves the friendly competition and the comradery offered by the growing league.

Grenier said as the city continues to experience exponential growth, and concurrently as more men over 30 look for a competitive sport during the summer months, further expansion is discussed each off-season. He said it’s “inevitable,” and also spurred by the fact there are fewer slo-pitch opportunities offered locally with the recent closing of the Dreamers complex.

“The rookies – 30-year-old men – excel because, well, they’re 30!” said Grenier. “But we had an 82-year-old player, Bob Pearson, retire just last year.”

There are no female players, although a few have expressed interest recently. Said Grenier, “If they are over 30, the league would be very open to them playing with us.”

There are 17 regular-season games scheduled this year, with eight teams competing in the A Division, and six in the B Division. The Werewolves are defending A champs, and Brewers (formerly Giants) reigning B champs.

No one is laughing at the LMBL today. In fact, it’s a good bet that some of those doubters are now playing in the league and thanking the baseball gods for the opportunity.

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Award-winning sports journalist Jeffrey Reed has written about local sports since 1980. He’s a retired pitcher and coach with the London Majors of the Intercounty Baseball League. Reach him at jeff@londonontariosports.com.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office http://www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and https://londonontariogolf.com.

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