Former pro player advocates to save Waterloo Park baseball diamonds

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Photo by Safina Husein

Aaron Hornostaj, a former professional baseball player and resident of Waterloo, has taken it upon himself to advocate for two baseball diamonds in Waterloo Park.

The two diamonds, which are located along Father David Bauer Drive, have become a controversial topic of discussion in the city of Waterloo, as Waterloo Council has proposed to replace the two diamonds with festival space.

The removal of the diamonds is a core feature of the Waterloo Park Master Plan which was proposed in 2009 and has been revised various times since.

Although no final decision has been made, Waterloo Council has committed a sum of money to upgrading two other diamonds in Waterloo and is considering other ways to increase access to baseball diamonds in other locations, such as RIM Park, to make up for the removal of two of a total of four diamonds in Waterloo Park.

“I think what we’ve found over the last half dozen years of planning … is that residents value a diverse range of recreational opportunities and of cultural events and festivals in our community,” Councillor Jeff Henry said

“It’s council’s responsibility in listening to everyone in the community to find appropriate locations and balance all of these interests to try to make sure we achieve the recreational and cultural goals our community has expressed.”

For Council, adding a larger festival space is a way of ensuring a diverse set of needs are met and to allow for a more passive space for residents in Waterloo.

“You shouldn’t have to go to Toronto to get those kinds of outdoor experiences. People should be able to have that right in Waterloo,” Henry said.

“We live in a world class city and we need to provide people with world class facilitates. I’ve travelled all around the world; I’ve played baseball in over 20 countries and we have some of the worst baseball fields in the world here in Waterloo.”

For the baseball community in Waterloo, however, the removal of the diamonds has brought forth various concerns and judgements.

“[Baseball is] important for everybody; for the future of our city and the children and the adults and our businesses,” Hornostaj said. “We’ve been in the park for over 100 years. The earliest records date back to 1889 for baseball and softball. When we talk about going forward and providing services for our community, sports are so important for so many reasons.”

Hornostaj, who is also an executive member of the Waterloo Minor Baseball Association, said his concerns are shared by many other individuals in Waterloo, being that over 1000 residents have signed a petition he created in favour of the diamonds. However, he said he is only one of a few of these individuals who are being vocal about the shared concerns.

“My goal right now is to stand up for the people who aren’t raising their voices,” Hornostaj said.

“We need this facility. Sports in the Waterloo Region is at an all-time high. Last year, we had to turn down over 100 players in the Waterloo Minor Baseball Association because we didn’t have enough baseball fields.”

In addition, Hornostaj has been vocal about the need to not only continue to grow the space for residents to take part in sports, but to also upgrade the current facilities that exist.

“We live in a world class city and we need to provide people with world class facilitates. I’ve travelled all around the world; I’ve played baseball in over 20 countries and we have some of the worst baseball fields in the world here in Waterloo.”

Some concerns also stem from the current opioid crisis and the city’s public concerns regarding the annual street party on Ezra Street. From this perspective, adding more festivals such as concerts and parties, Hornostaj said, will only add to existing issues in Waterloo.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to one thing: it comes down to sports versus festivals.”

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