EDMONTON — A baseball legend who helped the Toronto Blue Jays capture back-to-back World Series titles in the early 1990s is stepping up to the plate to try to keep Edmonton’s river valley ballpark from the wrecker’s ball.
Hall-of-Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar has written a letter to Edmonton’s mayor and city council after hearing that the 9,200-seat park may be demolished some day to make room for future redevelopment in the neighbourhood where it’s located.
Alomar offered to write the letter when he spoke last month at a fundraising dinner for the Edmonton Prospects, a collegiate summer team that plays in the Western Major Baseball League, and learned the facility’s days may be numbered.
Mayor Don Iveson says the ballpark, situated next to the North Saskatchewan River, is not in any immediate danger of being torn down.
The Prospects hold a lease on the stadium for at least the next two seasons.
A report outlining potential options for the area in which it sits is expected to come before city council near the end of this year or early next year.
Alomar wrote in his letter that baseball is on the upswing in Alberta, due largely to organizations such as the Prospects that work with local players and coaches to improve their skills.
He said the ballpark — once home to championship-winning Triple A baseball teams — inspires kids throughout Western Canada by showing them they can have a chance to play in front of thousands of fans who respect their skill and accomplishments.
"I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this ballpark for baseball in Alberta and, more importantly, how devastating it would be to the baseball community and the many young players if it were demolished," he penned.
Iveson said Alomar’s letter isn’t necessary right now, but he plans to keep the former major leaguer in the loop.
"Attendance numbers (for Prospects games) are coming up and that’s very positive. We’re still an awful long way from a sustainable cost model there. The ballpark is aging and it’s going to require a lot of investment," he said.
Jordan Blundell, the Prospects’ assistant general manager, said any decision on the ballpark is years down the road and the team is planning to play there long term. He also said when Alomar offers to volunteer on your behalf, you don’t say no.
"It kind of falls in line with what he’s doing now as a baseball philanthropist, teacher and builder."
A statement posted Tuesday to the team’s website from managing partner Pat Cassidy said the Prospects are pleased with Iveson’s comments, but they "want to clarify that our concerns emanate from city administration comments that three or four concept plans may go to council by year’s end and one may not include the ballpark."