Though the community of St. Lina was primarily built around its strong agricultural routes, there is another important piece of history and culture in the area that exists in the small hamlet.
And while there may be some grass and upkeep that is needed as the snow melts away and the puddles dry up, the St. Lina ball diamonds will soon be filled with a new generation of ball players, thanks to a renewed effort by a group of parents to bring the sport back.
According to the St. Lina history book, “The St. Lina Baseball club is one of the longest established organizations of the hamlet. Baseball was played as far back as the late 1910s and early 30s.”
Over the years, there were obstacles to overcome. In the late 1930s it is noted that the community mostly stopped playing the sport due to the high cost of equipment, and with many players having left to fight in the Second World War.
It is also noted that while some fastball was played during the war years, an offer from the nearby community of Glendon to share equipment if the players switched to baseball (rather than fastball), resulted in a shift and a focus placed on baseball.
The sport was revitalized in the 1940s, with a long list of players taking part. The team would travel to St. Paul for its July 1st tournaments for a number of years, along with travelling to other communities in the area to compete.
The popularity of the sports continued on in the late 1950s, when another group of ball players took to the plate. In the early 1960s, a league was formed consisting of teams from Mallaig, Ashmont, Therien, St. Lina and Owlseye.
“St. Lina won the League Trophy for four years in succession,” according to the history book. That team was coached by Dan Kachmarchyk, and the league eventually folded because the other communities could not compete with St. Lina, “which was growing strong.”
The baseball team continued to compete for a number of years, but would slow down as the years went by.
In the more recent past, the ball diamonds haven’t been used to their full potential, and youth who are interested in the sport often travel to St. Paul or Bonnyville to compete.
But, that will soon change.
Jaime Amyotte is among the group of parents that has decided to bring the sport back to St. Lina. Amyotte has a nine-year-old son who is now interested in playing the sport, and also has family roots that are connected to the long history of ball in St. Lina.
And so, the St. Lina Minor Ball board was created. The organization will stay true to history, and will keep its original name – the St. Lina Cubs – and will also use the club’s original logo.
“A lot of the old timers from St. Lina are really looking forward to this,” says Amyotte. The St. Lina Ag Society was fully on board with the idea of bringing baseball back to town, and many of the community members have stepped up to offer their help.
“It’s going to be a lot of work,” concedes Amyotte, but, “It’ll be worth it in the end.”
Once the grounds dries up, machinery will be brought in to do work on the ball diamonds. And while the diamonds are in fairly good shape, in order for St. Lina Minor Ball to join the nearby Lakeland league and host games, a shale infield diamond is needed, which has to meet specific requirements.
“We’ll be doing a huge work bee,” says Amyotte. She adds that there are also hopes to have a concession running at certain times.
This year, the group has enough players interested to field both a Mosquitoes team and a PeeWee team. The organization is open to adding more teams in the future, if the interest is there. The teams will be made up of boys and girls from the St. Lina and Mallaig areas.
And while parents and grandparents are excited to see the sport of baseball brought back to St. Lina, those most excited may be the young players themselves.
“They’ve been talking about it lots at school, and playing lots of ball at recess to practice,” says Amyotte.