No one really knows how the dream or vision came about for Sidney Little League. Suffice to say, the vision seemed to appear to most of us who were involved with the league all at once. One thing was certain. External forces and pressures entirely beyond the control of the league arose that threatened to scuttle an important aspect of the quality of life for the families of Sidney and North Saanich. It turned out that the land that our fields were on were part of a Federal Department of Transport buffer zone for the international airport. That the Federal government had leased the land to the local Army, Navy and Air Force Association for services rendered during the Second World War was of no consequence. Airport expansion and increased air traffic dictated for security and safety reasons, the integrity of the buffer zone remain intact. Sidney Little League had two years to vacate. The league executive, such as it was, attempted to lobby municipal and provincial representatives for support but to no avail. Both levels of government washed their hands of the issue claiming jurisdictional responsibilities that were out of their control. Consequently, Sidney Little League was cut adrift. Many of the special interest group vied for the land for many reasons, none of which included an area for the community’s youth.
At the end of season wrap-up, the bad news was conveyed to all that were present. Like most meetings of this nature, the parents were conspicuous by their absence. Remarkable considering the league had a registration of over 450 boys and girls. After all, this was the main event – the venue where the verbal dukes fly as all of the past years’ dirty laundry comes out. And like reading the letters to the editor in our local newspaper, I always looked forward to witnessing the cavalcade of insults and jeering and ego positioning that was the normal fare at these kind of meetings. This time however, a deafening silence filled the air, a somber, sickening feeling much like a death shroud waiting for the corpse to materialize You could have heard a pin drop. “What’s the alternative” someone finally shouted. “Is there a Plan B” someone else added. The President of the league, our leader, shrugged his shoulders in resignation, added nothing, and then adjourned the meeting. The executive left the room en masse.
I was dumbfounded and gobsmacked. How I love that word. No alternative. No Plan B, or C or D for that matter. They must have known something like this was going to happen. My eyes caught Wayne, my neighbor, across the room, arms folded and fixated at the now vacant head table. Ted, beside him was shaking his head, as witnessing some tragic event unfold. Hey, it’s only a Little League for heavens sake. But to some of these people the loss of their playing fields and ultimately the Little League organization meant an enormous blow to their sense of community. The fields were more than a playing field, but a meeting place, a community focal point, a catalyst, and the genesis for a host of memories that would last a lifetime.
Wayne, Ted and I, were the last to leave the hall. We all seemed to echo the same thoughts. So what now? Two more years, that’s it? No, there has to be a way around this. Collectively we came to the same conclusion. Let’s see what can come out of this setback. Perhaps we could find another field or share resources with another sports venue. The very next day, Ted called for an impromptu meeting of the minds at a local eatery. When I arrived I was surprised that a number of the fathers and mothers who were present, most of whom I had seen around the fields but had not really known that well. The concept of a new baseball complex came up almost by rote. Surprisingly Wayne and I were thinking the very same thing. In fact, we discussed the idea the night before over a few beers in the backyard.
Beer flowed and wings devoured as we were all thinking the same thing. A new baseball complex for the community would be a difficult and challenging task when one considers the nature of the politics of Sidney and North Saanich. Land was scarce. The only available fields were either provincially or federally controlled or privately owned and farmed. Not to be dissuaded, we agreed to look into the matter and see if we could come up with a number of options. While nobody said it outright, a vision was beginning to take shape in our minds and capture the imagination of all who were present. A new baseball facility for Sidney that was bigger and better than anything the municipality could ever have conceived. Exciting stuff! But how on earth were we going to pull it off? None of us were even on the league executive.
“I use not only the brains I have, but all that I can borrow” Woodrow Wilson
About a week later we all met again at our local pub: around ten individuals, all with the same thought on our minds. A new baseball complex for the community. We were motivated, enthused, focused and willing to make whatever sacrifices were necessary to achieve the aim. As we sat there discussing various alternatives and strategies, a game plan was slowly emerging. Apparently Ted, himself a closet politician, had attended a council meeting at Sidney’s city hall the night before. He had lobbied the group for answers and support to explore all of the options to maintain the Little League presence in the area. He also approached North Saanich’s council to garner their thoughts on the matter – but to no avail. Both councils felt the issue was out of their hands; that there were more pressing matters to address; and that the league could transfer its charter to a neighboring district.
It would appear that little help was forthcoming from our elected representatives. At the same time the league executive had accepted their fate and were exploring their options, all of which were unacceptable to us. As a group, we wanted to keep the league a permanent part of the Sidney and North Saanich community landscape. Almost immediately a plan emerged and we sprang into action. Municipal elections were coming up. We would get one of our own elected. Ted, the consummate “A” type personality was our obvious choice. He not only ran and won a seat but he also challenged and won the President’s position on the Little League executive. In fact, the key positions of President, Vice, Treasurer, Equipment manager were now filled by members of our group. Niceties aside our aim was to boot the old executive out and fill the key positions of the league executive such that we could harness as much energy as possible from all of the moms and dads out there. The executive had to be committed as well. As far as the council was concerned two other individuals who were sympathetic to our cause also won. Thus we had a majority 3 vs 5 votes in our favour in the event an issue arose that affected our plans. But we had made many enemies. Loyalties to the old guard were deep, and one person in particular, would turn out to be a proverbial thorn in our sides.
Part 4 tomorrow’s post….. SJ