Trevor Larocque cherishes the memories he made with his father at the Louis Bull Tribe ball diamonds.
He remembers the joyous atmosphere with fans in the stands cheering on their local athletes at games and tournaments.
It was not unlike many introductions to the game, but as the years went on, Larocque started noticing how one key element of those memories – the ballpark – was starting to deteriorate.
When he took over from Louis Bull’s infrastructure director in 2015, he knew things would have to change.
“The fences are coming apart, the grass has grown over the shale and the gophers have moved in,” Larocque described to Alberta Dugout Stories.
“You can’t walk on the bleachers or sit on the benches as they’re too dangerous and will fall apart, there are holes in the dugout – everything is just overgrown there.”
He started working on a plan to rebuild the ballpark and bring it back to the bustling place it was when he was a kid.
His dream has since taken on a life of its own, thanks to a grant from the Jays Care Foundation through its Field of Dreams program.
PITCH TO THE COMMUNITY
Amidst all of the other priorities for the Louis Bull Tribe, Larocque started asking around about the potential of working on the ball field.
He received glowing support from many, including Chief Desmond Bull, leading him to put together a formal plan about a year ago.
“One thing we were always taught and always reminded about from our past leaders and from our elders at Louis Bull is that, when it comes to our jobs, you have to think seven generations ahead,” Larocque said.
“This is what I was thinking – this is for our youth and the youth that will come after them.”
He felt the community had many star athletes simply waiting to be given the opportunity to showcase their talents, especially as he had seen it in previous generations.
As is many times the case, money became a sticking point.
After exhausting his options internally, he looked at outside sources.
“As soon as I heard about Jays Care, I said, ‘Wow, we have to go after this one,’” he said. “If we could get this, it would be so big and would just be awesome for us to get.”
Larocque put an application together, submitted it, and then began the waiting game.
WATCHING IN AWE
Knowing that Jays Care would be making the official announcement about successful applicants during the Sportsnet broadcast of the Toronto Blue Jays game against the Seattle Mariners on April 30th, the Louis Bull Tribe community gathered at its rec centre for a giant watch party.
Decked out in Blue Jays attire, the crowd waited anxiously to see which projects would be chosen to receive their portion of the $1.5 million being doled out.
When “Maskwacis, AB – Louis Bull Tribe” appeared on the big screen, the crowd went wild.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Larocque admitted. “Me and my wife and our children were watching it and we were just so amazed and … wow … we did it.”
The next day, he was back in his office, fielding numerous congratulatory phone calls from community members and leaders.
It also dawned on him that the work was only just beginning.
“We have set up a committee to work on this project specifically,” Larocque said. “We have a lot of things to accomplish for the Blue Jays, with the first step being to get a maintenance plan together and get all of our quotes together.”
Jays Care says the total funding amount is $240,834, with the work to include installing new sod and shale, dugouts, benches, bleachers, backstop fencing and perimeter fencing.
Executive director Robert Witchel says it is an honour to partner with the 15 community organizations to help create safe, inclusive, and accessible spaces for young people.
“Through the building of these baseball diamonds, youth will have the opportunity to form lasting relationships and a sense of belonging, learn valuable life-skills from positive role models, and grow through the power of sport and play,” he said in a news release.
“We look forward to seeing the positive impact of these projects for years to come.”
REBUILDING A LEGACY
It’s not expected to take the Louis Bull Tribe long to get the project done, as Larocque says they have to have it complete in three months once the shovels hit the ground.
He also believes community involvement will help make the diamond come together much faster.
Larocque says they have already received donations from several companies wanting to get on-board, and believes others in nearby Wetaskiwin and Ponoka are looking to step up to the plate as well.
He has also received support from other administrative departments that have offered help in the way of getting baseball equipment for the young athletes.
They are collectively dreaming of the day they are able to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony and see the first groups of kids start throwing and hitting baseballs again, just like they did when Trevor Larocque was a kid.
“That’s what is driving me to complete this,” he said. “That’s what is driving our team to get this done so we can get our youth going.”