Baseball and slo-pitch players in the city can breathe a sigh of relief about the potential loss of the slo-pitch diamond at J.B Tudhope Memorial Park - at least for now.
Mike Borrelli, the president of the men’s, women’s and co-ed slo-pitch league in Orillia, said he is concerned about a plan to remove the slo-pitch diamond, which he says is a necessary and well-used diamond.
“We use that diamond every day, every Monday through Friday and some weekends we have tournaments on that diamond and the hardball players use it a few times a year for their tournaments. Plus, during the day, I see school kids on it, and I see adult groups on it,” said Borrelli.
Borrelli said losing the diamond would hurt local leagues and the city’s ability to host tournaments.
“We cannot do without that diamond. It is built exclusively for slo-pitch, however, multi-users are using it,” he said.
He is adamant that new diamonds be built prior to taking the Tudhope diamond out of service.
Marcia Russell, the city’s manager of parks and facilities, confirms there is a plan to remove the Tudhope diamond sometime in the future, but stressed replacement diamonds would be constructed first.
“The removal of the Tudhope Park baseball diamond is a part of a masterplan that we did in 2014,” Russell explained.
“In the masterplan, it suggested that our waterfront parks should be deemed more of a celebration park and therefore, they shouldn’t necessarily have sports amenities within them,” Russell said.
But nothing is likely to happen anytime soon.
“We recognize that both baseball parks at Tudhope are upper-tier diamonds and that’s why there is a recommendation in the masterplan that some time in the very, very distant future, when we have land to replace ball diamonds, that we would consider removing the Tudhope diamond,” Russell said.
It’s a long-term strategy, she stressed.
“If all things align, the plan would be to someday find land and be able to build a pinwheel of diamonds,” she said, noting that has been the desire of the baseball community for years.
Russell also added that the popular Tudhope diamond may not be the only diamond on the move down the road.
“We have multiple diamonds in our entire system that could all use a revamp," she says.
“Not only do we know that we need to replace baseball diamonds, we actually need to add ball diamonds to our system and the masterplan very clearly acknowledges that,” Russell said.
The premiere diamond at Tudhope Park, the Jerry Udell diamond, will stay put, she said.
“I believe that in the future we would probably still leave the (Jerry) Udell diamond where it is,” she said.
“That one has never been discussed as one for movement. It’s really the Tudhope one we have thought about and it’s more so because of the fact that it is on a waterfront.”
Some have suggested the slo-pitch diamond is being removed at Tudhope Park to make more room for the Mariposa Folk Festival - something Russell says is untrue.
“It has nothing to do with the Mariposa Folk Festival or Rib Festival. It has more to do with this (Tudhope) being a waterfront park,” she says.
Even though Russell says there is no concrete plan in the near future to build new baseball diamonds, it is a priority for the city.
“If land comes up for purchase, it is absolutely something that is top of mind for the parks and recreation and culture department,” she said.
Russell is preaching patience.
“We are very aware that baseball is something that is important to our department, and we are on this,” she said.
You can read the City of Orillia’s masterplan for the future of J.B. Tudhope Memorial Park here.