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If you love Canada, love Baseball – you are really going to love The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
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By Rick Vandekieft

Two years ago Brian “Chip Martin” released “The Tecumsehs of the International Association: Canada's First Major League Baseball Champions”. Chip Martin is well known in London as one of Canada’s top investigative news reporters with The London Free Press for over 40 years.

In the book Martin tells of the London Tecumsehs, an 1870s baseball team that rose to the top ranks of pro ball. The Tecumsehs of London, Ontario, were among the founding members of the International Association in 1877, the first league established to challenge the struggling National League, formed a year earlier.

Martin has always stood firm that Canadians had a pivotal role in the creation of baseball .... America's past-time.

The suggestion that military officer Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839 has been discredited as true baseball historians admit the story is patently false since Doubleday was at West Point when he would've been playing that legendary first game.

Martin’s theory is that Abner Graves, a man who helped create the Doubleday/Cooperstown myth may have been inspired by an 1838 baseball game in Beachville, Ontario. Graves later passed on distorted information to sporting goods tycoon Albert Spalding who was running an investigative commission to determine the origins of baseball.

Martin and many others pointed out that baseball wasn't really invented by any one person and likely evolved from any number of bat and ball games brought over from the British Isles.

Of course, if you visit Cooperstown, the Home of the (US) Baseball Hall of Fame, they will do their best to convince you that Abner Doubleday did in fact invent baseball in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. But if you really want to know the truth, you need only travel 40km north of the city to St Mary’s, the home the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Baseball in Canada has a rich history and visiting the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is something every baseball fan needs to do. I have visited Cooperstown and I have visited St Mary’s…and I keep going back to St Mary’s year after year. The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum was originally located partially at Exhibition Place and partially at Ontario Place. But it closed on 1991.

During the early 1990’s 12 cities expressed interest in becoming the new home for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The top 2 cities were Guelph and St. Marys and St. Marys won the bidding process on August 25, 1994 and became the new home for the Hall of Fame.

The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum officially opened in St. Marys on June 4, 1998 on land donated by the St Marys Cement Company. The museum is housed in a century old company house that was part of the donation. A close friend of mine grew up in that tiny house along with 3 other families whose fathers worked for the St Mary’s Cement Company.

It is a very small house and with the outstanding and growing collection of historical artifacts relating to baseball in Canada, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is in desperate need of more space.

Just last month, Scott Crawford, the Director of Operations of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum told us that the board of directors of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has approved plans to update its museum!

He said that a 2500-square foot expansion will enable the Hall to increase collection storage and curatorial workspace and establish a library and research centre for its extensive collection of books and archival material. The project will also include updates to the exhibition spaces, including the hall of inductee plaques. The total cost of the initiative is estimated at $850,000, and will be funded by the Hall’s capital reserve fund and a federal grant. The project is currently in the design phase. Construction is expected to commence towards the end of this year.

Adam Stephens, chair of the board of directors stated “This is an important initiative to address the immediate needs of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s collection and to improve the experience for visitors to the museum. We are extremely excited about the impact this initiative will have on preserving and promoting baseball history in Canada.”

To be considered a true Canadian baseball fan, you must, at least once, attend the festivities in June at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the annual Induction Weekend.

When attending the Induction Ceremonies at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, you need to bring a lawn chair, an umbrella or sunscreen (depending on the weather), a good pair of binoculars, a lot of patience (and a very good bladder).

You and thousands of others will gather to hear (unlikely see) those being inducted. This year Tim Raines of Expos fame will be one of those inducted at Cooperstown.

Tim Raines? Heck we already welcomed Tim into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame 4 years ago! Tim joined the elite group of Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame members in 2013 along with George Bell, Rob Ducey, the late Nat Bailey and the late” Tom “Touch ‘em all Joe” Cheek.

Induction Weekend at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a well kept secret and those that try to keep it a secret say, “We don’t want to become like Cooperstown. We like our enjoyable weekend with a couple of hundred other fans. No worries about parking, seeing, hearing …or even that weak bladder! If word spreads ‘everyone’ will want to come!”

I must admit, I do like the quaint gathering, going early to chat baseball with the likes of Paul Beeston and Pat Gillick and get pictures with George Bell, Dwane Ward, Denis Martinez as they casually wonder the grounds at the Hall of Fame.

Induction day this year is Saturday June 24th and it’s going to be spectacular! One of my all time favorite Blue Jays, Roy Halladay will be inducted into the Hall of Fame along with Expos great Vladimir Guerrero, past Baseball Canada president Ray Carter, British Columbia umpire Doug Hudlin and Team Canada 2015 Senior Men's National Team – Pan-Am gold medalists. The ceremony gets started at 1:00 but get there early for a good seat.

An autograph session will follow the ceremony with the current and past Inductees.

We have been advised that along with this years inductees, you can expect to see and maybe get autographs from Hall of Famers Pat Hentgen, Howard Starkman, Fergie Jenkins, Tony Fernandez, Pat Gillick, Paul Beeston, Don McDougall, Ron Taylor, Paul Quantrill, Allan Simpson and John Haar. Former major league players Duane Ward, Lloyd Moseby, Billy Atkinson, John Upham, Larry Landreth, Paul Spoljaric, Greg O'Halloran, former NHL'ers Terry Crisp, Merlin Malinowski, Walker Tkaczuk, musician Annakin Slayd and boxer Fitz Vanderpool!

You want more? There is a lot more than the induction ceremony. Come to the Hall of Fame early because from 11am-12:30 pm you can test your pitching speed, have your face painted and meet Blue Jays alumni Duane Ward, Lloyd Moseby and others.

On Friday (June 23rd) the 21st Annual Celebrity Golf Classic & Banquet will be held at the St. Marys Golf and Country Club. Registration will take place at 10 a.m., tee-off will be at 11 a.m. and the banquet will begin at 5 p.m. Teams will be matched up with a celebrity and each player will receive a gift bag and have a chance to win fantastic prizes. If you don't golf, you can still enjoy the banquet. Click HERE for the all of the details.

On Thursday the 22nd The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum proudly presents The Opening Pitch, an exclusive reception to launch Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Induction weekend. The event will feature "Conversations with Excellence" hosted by Mike Wilner with additional special guests. Roy Halladay, Vladimir Guerrero, Ray Carter and members of the Team Canada 2015 Men's Senior National Team will be in attendance. The event is open bar and hors d'oeuvres will be served. This event will take place at Miller Thomson LLP in Toronto at 40 King Street West, 58th floor from 5:30pm-7:30pm. Tickets are $225 each. Click HERE for more information or to order your tickets BUT there are only 140 tickets so don’t wait.

You don’t have to wait till Induction Weekend to enjoy the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is open for another season.

The museum will be open on weekends in May (Saturdays 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays 12:00 p.m. to 4 p.m.) and on Victoria Day from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Starting on June 1 through August 31, the Hall will be open daily (Monday through Saturday) from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 4 p.m. Then from September 1 through October 7 we will be open Thursday to Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 12:00 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The Hall of Fame will host over 900 events in 2017 as they are home to the Ontario Nationals, Ontario Expos, Ontario Outlaws, St. Marys Minor Ball, St. Marys Slo-pitch, plus host games from the Great Lake Canadians, London Men’s League and many other top quality baseball teams. This year they also welcome back teams from Quebec and Ottawa. Baseball tournaments are being held on our site May 6-7, July 7-8, August 3-6 and Slo-pitch tournaments July 1-2, September 9 and 22-24.

The first large event is the Scotts Pitch Hit Run skills competition for kids ages seven to 14 on May 6 at 4 p.m. on King Field. This event is free and kids will compete in strike-throwing, base running and hitting competitions against other kids in their age bracket.

On Saturday, May 13 at 10am The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame will host the Toronto Blue Jays Honda Instructional Clinic. Registration is open for players aged 8 to 14 and more details are available HERE. During the four-hour clinic, players will rotate through drills that will work on fundamental baseball skills such as: hitting, throwing, fielding, pitching, and base running. Also, each Blue Jays Honda Instructional Clinic participant will receive a Blue Jays hat, T-shirt and baseball manual.

I hope you will take the time to visit the beautiful town of St Marys and our country’s baseball gem, The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. If you come on induction day, I’ll be the one with the big smile – taking it all in!