Baseball is back at the oldest diamond in the world
LONDON, ONT. -- The London Majors and Guelph Royals will play an exhibition game Friday night at Labatt Park.
The 'oldest continually operating baseball grounds in the world' has been shut down all season due to COVID-19, but the park - which has had baseball since 1877 - will keep its streak alive.
"The big thing about this game is to preserve history," says Roop Chanderdat, London Majors co-owner, manager and general manager.
Barry Wells, who founded the Friends of Labatt Park, told CTV News in July that he believes even if there are no games, the 'continuous use' designation won't be affected.
"If you look at the Guinness Book of World Records certificate, it says established in 1877, and hosted baseball games to the present day," says Wells.
"I don't see it as an issue. The ballpark is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act and it is in a floodplain so there is no development allowed. It's going to be here until the end of time."
However Chanderdat didn't want to take any chances with the streak.
"We have a gem here and I want to make sure we maintain that historic record. I want to dot all my i's and cross the t's. I don't want anyone to come back and say you didn't do it, and you could have."
When the Inter-county Baseball League (IBL) shut down its season, the Majors began talking with the City of London.
"We always knew we'd be interested in trying to make something happen to get this continuous baseball going for the 144th year," says JP McGonigle, parks and recreation division manager for the city.
"We tried to keep this field in good condition all year to protect the asset. It's not a lot of extra work for us, so we are real happy to pull it off. It's a wonderful thing for the Majors, the location and the community."
Acting Mayor Josh Morgan will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
There will only be a few friends and family allowed in attendance, but the game will be broadcast on YouTube and local cable television.
"Just being able to play is exciting, even though we won’t have any fans here, we'll have that legacy here," says Majors' slugger Cleveland Brownlee.
He will be part of a 15-player roster for the home team, while legend Sean Reilly will be part of the Guelph squad.
The Majors roster will consist of current and recent players, and Chanderdat says they will be treating it like a regular game, not a charity contest.
The City of London will also be able to show off a few new additions including the cement pad and railings now in front of the dugout which McGonigle says "the players will love."
For now, this game will be the only one played at Labatt Park this summer.
"At this point Labatt park is closed," says McGonigle.
"We are willing to entertain requests if we have the ability to pull off the opportunity. But for now this is a one-off game we need to make happen for the community."