It was late Friday afternoon when Jen Fitzgerald found out that her recreational softball league wasn’t going to be able to play at the MacGregor Park diamond as it has every Saturday for nearly a decade.
A newly built condominium was getting hit with baseballs, so the city decided to temporarily ban adult leagues from playing in the park. Children’s leagues can continue to use it.
Fitzgerald is frustrated that she and many other players in her league flagged the risk to the city when the condo was still under construction.
“A few years ago, another general manager and I reached out to the city to inquire what the plan was for safety and how to avoid balls going into the building,” said Fitzgerald, one of the managers for the Toronto Comedy Softball League.
The new low-rise condominium sits right on St. Helens Avenue, two streets west of Lansdowne Avenue and backs onto the outfield of the MacGregor Park baseball diamond. The building’s been hit by dozens of baseballs this season.
Concerns went unanswered
The commissioner of the Downtown Toronto Softball Association, Igor Jeremic, said he also contacted the City of Toronto about continuing to book the diamond but was assured his team’s “permits were safe.”
When Fitzgerald asked again this past March whether booking the field was safe, she didn’t hear back from the city but was issued a permit.
Her league paid more than $8,000 to secure a Saturday permit from May to September.
Now after already playing a few games, Fitzgerald was informed she’d have to move to another diamond in the city because the flying balls were damaging property and scaring residents.
“It’s frustrating. We’ve been trying to address this for two years and now that we’ve started our season we’re being asked to leave,”said Fitzgerald.
“MacGregor Park is centrally located for 99 per cent of our league. Now we’re going to have to ask people to commute to the other side of the city.”
Trees to be planted and net installed in coming weeks
Coun. Ana Bailão says the issue was brought to the attention of Toronto’s planning division earlier but concerns went unanswered until now.
In the coming weeks, the city will be planting trees and a net will be installed to catch those home runs. After that, the adult leagues will be able to return to the diamond, but there’s no set date for when that work will begin.
“My priority is to get these things installed as soon as possible,” Bailão told CBC Toronto.
In total, Toronto’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation says there are five baseball leagues and associations that are being displaced and it’s working with them to find new diamonds to play on.
“It just seems like there was no foresight to see that this was going to be a problem, except by us,” said Fitzgerald.