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Jason Bay’s baseball legacy lives on at East Trail park

After a 5 year wait, ‘Jason Bay Field’ signage to Butler Park was completed last week
It may have taken longer than expected, but the committee to bring Jason Bay Field to Butler Park ended in success with the recent signage put up last week. L-R: Doug Stanley, Doug Jones, Glenn Wallace, Lou DeRosa, and Keith Smyth. Missing: Ron Fabbro Photo: Jim Bailey

Trail’s field of dreams has become a reality.

After a five year wait, the addition of “Jason Bay Field” signage to Butler Park was completed last week.

“It’s beyond exciting,” said retired teacher and coach, Luigi (Lou) DeRosa. “That was exasperating and a long haul at times with COVID. But things happen, and it’s up. I am very happy, and I think it’s a great addition.

“The baseball field has a name now.”

Jason Bay Field sign stands proudly above Teck scoreboard. Photo: Jim Bailey

DeRosa rallied the community to honour Bay, a Trail native and former Major Leaguer, in an effort to rename the East Trail baseball field, “Jason Bay Field at Butler Park.”

A group of well-known Trail organizers that includes Doug Jones, Doug Stanley, Glenn Wallace, Keith Smyth and Ron Fabbro, formed a committee and approached council in October 2019 with the request.

Yet, following council’s approval and commitment to cover 60 per cent of the cost, the pandemic hit and then a violent wind storm in January 2021, which took down trees and light standards at the park, slowing momentum considerably.

But on April 5, the sign “Jason Bay Field” went up above the scoreboard at Butler Park.

DeRosa makes a point of acknowledging the legacy of former Mayor Sid Butler, for whom the two-block section including the Trail Aquatic and Leisure Centre, tennis/pickleball courts and ballpark, is named.

“But the baseball field now has a name in honour of probably the best baseball player we have produced around here,” said DeRosa.

The classic font and maroon colour is eye catching, the rigid structure a credit to the engineering and welding that went into it, and city staff who undertook the footing construction and sign placement.

“In order to provide stability and longevity, the existing footings at the base of the posts were reinforced with additional rebar and concrete,” said David Moorhead, acting director of Trail Parks and Recreation.

“Additionally, new structural steel elements were introduced on the rear of the scoreboard to carry and distribute the weight of the new sign.

“Finally, to stabilize and buttress the structure a new angled support was added to limit the effect of wind. This support is welded to the new steel elements and connected to a ‘kickstand’ footing that is ten feet deep.”

Damage caused by the windstorm, though costly, brought much needed improvements to the park. The old light poles were replaced by all new, state-of-the art light standards and netting, as well as upgrades to the dugouts.

“The enhancement of the lights, we really have to appreciate the city and the citizens for the costs,” said Stanley. “That gives longevity and legacy to this ball park, so we can have all kinds of tournaments here now.”

The delays caused by COVID also meant that most of the signage was designed and constructed by local businesses says Smyth, who gives a special thanks to Speedpro, XL Quality, Selkirk Technology Access Centre, PowerTech, Redwood Engineering and the City of Trail.

The campaign also received support from local baseball fans, friends and family, and along with local sponsors who hit it out of the park and contributed the remainder of the funds as showcased on the placard at Butler.

“There was great interest from the baseball fans and families in Trail, who saw the historical perspective of Butler Park and what we were doing,” said Smyth. “In other words, the theme of the whole thing.”

As a teacher at J.L. Crowe, DeRosa was heavily involved in sports and assisted coach Andy Bilesky in leading the 1981 Trail Little League team to the B.C. and Canadian championship, and ultimately to the Little League World Series.

He, along with fellow committee members watched Bay develop in Trail, and ultimately receive a scholarship to North Idaho College, before advancing to Gonzaga University.

Bay was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 22nd round in 2000 and went on to play 11 years in the majors, with over 5,000 at bats, 1,200 hits and 222 home runs.

He played Major League Baseball for six different teams, was a three-time All Star and awarded the Rookie of the Year honour in 2004 as a member of the Pittsburg Pirates.

But the many awards and accomplishments achieved throughout his career pales in comparison to the class he displayed on and off the field.

“At the end of my career, I hope my roommates say, ‘I was a better person than a player,’” Bay said at his Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. “I always tried to be the same guy every day, whether I was 0-for-4 or 4-for-4.”

His legacy, thanks to its many contributors, remains alive and well at Jason Bay Field in Greater Trail.

A formal ceremony is planned for Saturday, May 18, with more details to come.

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Jim Bailey

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