inda Eckert likes to takes photographs of the sunsets in the big summer skies at Dreamers ball complex.
She’s not so fond of the fact the sun is slowly setting for good on the complex she’s managed for the past five years, but she’s not ready to call it a game yet.
“Dreamers is open for business. We will take registration for the 2017 season the same as we do in February. Our regular league will be the same,” she says.
The complex, run by Southwest London Baseball on Exeter Road near Wonderland Road, is being phased out for a large, mainly residential complex by the property’s owner, Z Group.
After a story ran in The London Free Press about the impact on youth baseball, Eckert, general manager of the adult league, got calls from worried adult slo-pitch players thinking their games were done for next year.
Eckert wants to make sure the 2,000 or so adults who play at Dreamers know the league will be around for another five years.
Unfortunately, the first stage of the development by Z Group will knock out several of the lighted diamonds at the centre of the complex, leaving the league with seven at the far end of the park next summer.
“We can still manage the same amount of teams for our league,” Eckert said.
Chris Muscutt, president of Southwest London Adult Baseball, and Linda Eckert, general manager of Dreamers complex, remind adult slo-pitch players that they will still use Dreamers despite the first phase of a new development. (RANDY RICHMOND, The London Free Press)
But in jeopardy are tournaments that raise money for charities and the provincial slo-pitch series, which brings hotel patrons and restaurant-goers to London.
Each summer, the Ontario slo-pitch championships are held at Dreamers, bringing about 60 teams to the city for four weekends, Eckert said.
“That will be hard to sustain,” she said.
“The slo-pitch community is a huge community and I don’t think people realize it’s still a huge community. It’s growing still.”
Slo-pitch gives adults a chance to enjoy a game and be part of a team without too much physical stress, said Chris Muscutt, president of the Southwest London Adult Baseball.
“I think the city is most definitely underestimating how it is going to impact the adult side. The adults are kind of put off to the side and left to fend for ourselves,” he said.
“Every year we see more and more people coming out and people playing longer. We have people 70 years-plus playing out here.”
Adults might find other diamonds in the city where they can play, but there won’t be another place like Dreamers in the growing southwest end, Eckert said.
“What’s being lost? Over 2,000 people being active and social and being out in the community and having a good time,” she said.
She recognizes Dreamers is on private land and said the city is doing what it can to help.
“Obviously we have a lot of potential, but the city doesn’t feel there will ever be a complex of this magnitude again, so it will be pockets of four diamonds, a pinwheel of diamonds here and there throughout the city. Or if they get land for us, it would be whatever we are capable of doing on that land.”
There’s uncertainty as well over exactly how the complex will get ready for next summer.
“Am I picking up all these backstops and taking them to the other end?” Eckert said. “We don’t really know where we are for that.”