Hundreds of high-level ball players will fight for gold in Winnipeg this summer, and that has local baseball experts excited about the chance the city now has to show off three of its finest baseball diamonds.
The 2017 Canada Summer Games will see 10 baseball teams competing in Winnipeg this summer, with games being split between Shaw Park in downtown Winnipeg, Whittier Park in St. Boniface and Koskie Field in Elmwood.
“This may be the nicest group of baseball facilities ever to be utilized in the 50 year history of the Canada Summer Games,” Baseball Manitoba’s Cal Hawley said.
Hawley, who is the sport chair for baseball for the 2017 Canada Summer Games, said he gets excited any time the city of Winnipeg gets to showcase Shaw Park, the home of the Winnipeg Goldeyes.
“With Shaw Park we sometimes don’t realize the amazing and professional facility that we have here, and the kind of reputation this park has across North America,” Hawley said.
“For minor-pro ball it’s known across the continent as one of the finest facilities in baseball.”
Hawley said it is not very often the Canada Summer Games get to utilize a facility like Shaw Park.
“It will likely be the finest facility that many of these players will have the chance to play in during their entire careers,” he said.
“These young players get a chance to play in a professional facility and that includes the chance to walk through a tunnel and into the dugout, so it’s going to be a cool experience for them, and for their families.”
Winnipeg Goldeyes general manager Andrew Collier said the organization jumped at the chance to see 2017 Canada Summer Games ball games hosted at Shaw Park.
Collier added the park will have two professional clubhouses that will be used by teams competing during the games, and offer players the same fitness equipment and amenities that are utilized by pro players who compete at the park.
“It will be an exciting time, and very special experience for a lot of these players and their families,” Collier said.
Shaw Park can hold up to 7,500 fans, and Collier said they plan to have concessions open during the summer games to keep the experience for fans as close to what they experience when taking in a Winnipeg Goldeyes game.
Shaw Park and the Winnipeg Goldeyes organization are no strangers to hosting large-scale baseball tournaments, as Shaw Park hosted ball games during the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg.
Premier games such as the gold and bronze medal matches will be played at Shaw Park during the Games, and teams will also compete at two smaller but also well-known ballparks in the city.
Whittier Park will host ball games during the 2017 Canada Summer Games, and park manager Dino Garroni said the location of the St. Boniface-based ballpark makes playing and watching games there an enjoyable experience.
“From a fan and player point of view the aesthetics of the park is what most people comment on,” Garroni said. “The backdrop is a beautiful view of the downtown skyline, and it’s located within Whittier Park so it’s got a very scenic surrounding.”
Garroni said Whittier Park’s diamond is a similar size to the one the Toronto Blue Jays play on at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
“It’s definitely a difficult park for someone to hit it out of the park,” he said. “But players just seem to like playing here. I hear that a lot.”
Garroni added they have recently done upgrades to the park in anticipation of the Games, including adding two new sets of aluminum bleachers that can hold about 150 spectators each, and an electronic scoreboard.
Garroni said that when the Games kick off, it will be the highest level of competition ever hosted at Whittier Park.
Koskie Field in Elmwood will also host ball games during the 2017 Canada Summer Games, and field manager Dave Olson called the park a “hitters park” because its dimensions are smaller than the ones at Whittier and Shaw Park.
“There will be the opportunity to drive some balls out of this park,” Olson said. “There is a chance that a few more runs will be scored here.”
Garroni added the park has an “old time feel” with dimensions similar to what can be found at Wrigley field in Chicago, or Fenway Park in Boston.
“It’s a smaller field, and that could effect the way the scores play out here.”
Hawley said he believes all three of the parks will make for great baseball competition this summer during the 2017 Canada Summer Games.
“Winnipeg and the games will be very well served with these three parks,” Hawley said.