Jacob Ellsworth couldn’t imagine not playing baseball.
The Glace Bay product has spent the majority of his summer vacations playing the sport, but questions surrounding this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced Ellsworth to sit and wait for an announcement.
“It was disappointing, we couldn’t start the year on time, but we all know it was the right decision,” said the eight-year-old. “I just wanted to be with my friends and wanted to be back at the field.”
After months of waiting, the second baseman received the news he had been waiting for on July 28 — the return of baseball competition.
Baseball Nova Scotia was given permission by the provincial government for players, coaches, volunteers and parents to return to the field, but with strict guidelines to limit the spread of the virus.
“I was very happy to get back to the field,” said Ellsworth, whose favourite MLB team is the New York Yankees.
“When I heard the news, I immediately went and got my glove, I couldn’t wait to start.”
While some minor baseball associations decided earlier in the summer to cancel the 2020 season, the Glace Bay Antonians Minor Baseball Association stepped up to the plate and was able to offer programming to players in the T-ball, novice, mosquito and peewee divisions.
Nick Bonnar, president of the Antonians association, didn’t know what to expect in terms of registration. Amid the pandemic, he expected 20 to 30 players to sign up.
Instead, 100 players registered for the program with children from Glace Bay, New Waterford, Sydney and Sydney River joining the association.
“For that many kids to show up in COVID-19, it was truly amazing,” said Bonnar. “The kids were happy – I don’t think you can beat the smiles on their faces all season – and that’s the most important thing to us.”
The association’s peewee team played in a 10-game Cape Breton league and finished the campaign with a 1-9 record. Meanwhile, the remainder of the teams played against each other respectively.
Bonnar and a group of local volunteers formed the association in 2018, after the well-known umpire and coach spent 40 years with the Glace Bay Little League Association.
“We thought we’d try our own association and make it about the kids and not about Baseball Nova Scotia or Little League,” said Bonnar. “We want people to know that we’re all in the same group, they have their kids and we have ours and the whole town really gained because of it.”
Tristen Fowler has been part of the association since the beginning. He’s watched the program grow and couldn’t say enough about the volunteers.
“It’s a great program, coach Nick is really good with the players and so are all the coaches,” said Fowler, whose favourite MLB player is Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander.
“We’re thankful for everyone who has been able to make baseball a success for us.”
In the beginning, the association didn’t have a field for their programming. They approached the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and were permitted to use the Row Street Field in Bridgeport.
After being told there was no municipal money available for upgrades, the association began raising money for necessary work including the creation of a new infield and the erection of two new dugouts.
To date, the association, named in honour of the Glace Bay Antonians baseball teams from the 1940s, has spent around $25,000 on the field, however, Bonnar said more work is needed.
“We need help to get a building with washroom facilities and that’s our main goal right now,” he said. “We’re working on grants but have not had much luck with them.”
The association hopes to have washroom facilities built at the field soon although there is no timeline on the project.
“We’re trying,” said Bonnar. “It would be nice to get some help, we understand times are difficult right now, but we’re not going to stop trying.”
Anyone willing to help the association can contact Bonnar at 902-849-6754 or Tim Fowler at 902-595-0837.
Despite the shortened season, which finished last weekend, Ellsworth was pleased with his play on the field.
“I had lots of fun and that’s what’s really important,” said Ellsworth. “Being able to play with my friends and save the season was great.”