By Jeremy Fraser
Jan. 14, 2015
Every July in New Waterford for the past seven years, hundreds of fans of the local Midget ‘A’ baseball team flock to the Gerry Marsh Ball Field. They’re there to watch the hometown Marlins participate in the annual New Waterford Marlins mid-season classic during there town’s annual summer festival.
But the tournament could be in jeopardy this year, said the organizers.
A recent hike in the cost of light usage and field fees mean tournament may not take place this summer, said committee chairman Barry Long.
“It’s coming to the point where we can’t afford to keep the tournament going,”
For the first six years of the tournament, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality donated the fee to the committee. That changed last July. The organizers were told they had to pay $20 an hour for lights and a $25 rental fee per day. That’s $325 for the three-day tournament.
“We are a non-profit minor sports group that strives on donations from the community in order to have the popular tournament,” Long said.
“It doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but it is when you’re non-profit.”
The tournament started in 2008 as a four-team affair, but quickly expanded when word of the tournament hospitality spread.
Now, the tournament brings eight to 10 teams from across the Maritimes to the community of New Waterford each year.
Marlins manager Brad Baker said the tournament helps the local economy.
“It’s struggling times in Cape Breton, with the mines and steel plant closed. This tournament brings people to the area who wouldn’t be coming if it wasn’t for the event.”
The Marlins players look forward to the tournament each year, Baker said.
“They enjoy playing in front of the big crowds each year. It motivates them to be at their best.”
New Waterford has always been a baseball town, dating back to the early 1950s when the New Waterford Giants senior team captured Cape Breton’s first Maritime senior championship.
Frank Bursey is a local baseball fan. He enjoys watching all the games at the tournament, even if the hometown Marlins are not on the field.
“It’s good baseball, something fans in New Waterford look forward to seeing each July,”
Local residents will be disappointed if the tournament is forced to stop, he said.
“It gives residents something to do in the middle of July. It also gives us older folks something to talk about at Tim Hortons.”
News the tournament might be coming to an end concerns the local minor baseball association.
Chris Hillier is the president of the NWMBA. Player registration was down in 2013 compared to previous years. If the tournament stops, it could also decrease interest in the game, he said.
“The numbers were down last year and it’s alarming to us.”
“The young kids go to the games and see how exciting baseball can be. It makes them want to play baseball in the community.”
Brandon Guenette is a board member with Baseball Nova Scotia in Halifax. He is also concerned about what may happen if the tournament stops.
“There isn’t much baseball left in Cape Breton as it is. If the tournament doesn’t continue, it could be trouble for the area.”
“The New Waterford area has produced some great baseball players and teams over the years. The town is the prime spot for baseball on the Island.”
Long said the committee is working to schedule a meeting with municipal council in the coming weeks to see what can be done to save the tournaments future.