LAPPE – OK, Blue Jays, let’s play ball.
That’s the rallying cry in Lappe these days, thanks in large part to a $50,000 donation through the Jays Care Foundation’s Field of Dreams program.
The money was used to help build a baseball diamond in the tiny Northern Ontario community, best-known for its world-class cross country ski facility.
The field was officially opened on Saturday, with members of the community invited to take a few swings and pick up a little Blue Jays baseball swag, just in time for the final week of the 2023 MLB season, as Toronto makes a final push for the post-season.
Youngster Lennox Nyberg said he can’t wait to take some cuts at the plate, knowing he doesn’t have to make his way into nearby Thunder Bay to play organized baseball, starting next season.
“It means a lot to me,” he said.
“I’m really happy to have it all right here.”
Jessica Menard, who moved back to Lappe after spending years in the Toronto area, cheering on the Jays in her adopted home town.
“A lot of folks are moving back. The community is growing. There are lots of young kids, and it’s fantastic to have something in the community for them to do that’s new,” Menard said.
The Lappe field, located on Old Hall Road, is one of 16 projects funded by the Jays Care Foundation, the charitable arm of Toronto’s major league team.
Jays Care Foundation executive director, Robert Witchel, said Lappe was an easy choice, despite there being more than 100 applications from coast to coast seeking to access money from the Field of Dreams program.
“The Lappe application was really impressive, first because it was a brand-new field, the number of kids in the community – there are about 1,000 kids in the community – and the stories that kids were having to travel to Thunder Bay to play baseball,” Witchel said.
“Even the leagues there were over-capacity. The fact that it was a new build, that the land was already purchased, the community was ready to go and the community had great volunteers made it a no-brainer for us.”
Hundreds turned out for the opening, which also encompassed Lappe’s Family Fun Day, featuring bouncy castles and an impromptu – and informal – game of baseball on the newly constructed diamond, proof that if you build it, they will come.
Lindsay Sipila, Lappe’s recreation director, said community members were thrilled to learn last spring that they were getting the grant, allowing them to complete the first phase of a planned development that will also include a playground and soccer fields – and eventually could encompass a recreational centre.
“This is super exciting for our community for all of our kids, all of the adults, to be able to put on baseball in our community,” Sipila said.
“To be able to provide these services helps with mental health, involves our school and all of the children – and just being able to put smiles on the children’s faces and have them involved in so many different recreational activities (is great).”