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SPORTS: A whole new ball game (Apr. 2024)

May 7th, 2024 · No Comments

Club promises new features and new excitement for Leafs baseball

Fresh coats of paint are being applied to the announcer’s booth and concession stand. R.S. KONJEK/GLEANER NEWS

By R.S. Konjek

A new season of Toronto Maple Leafs baseball will soon get underway at Christie Pits.

The familiar sights and sounds of baseball, a staple of summers at the Pits since 1969, will be joined by some new ones.

Over the winter, a group of local investors purchased the club from the estate of former owner, the late Jack Dominico.

Former TSN sportscaster Rod Black is one of the faces of the Leafs’ new ownership group. In December, he and Leafs’ manager Rob Butler hosted a fan gathering at Christie Pits and offered a preview of what to expect in 2024.

Black sees the club having a bigger presence and bigger draw in Toronto’s sporting landscape. He hinted that his vision could include more game-day activities around home ballgames, more promotions and celebrity guests, more excitement, and definitely more kids at the ballpark.

“Parents don’t drive kids to games; kids drive parents to games,” Black said.

Since then, the club has confirmed several new features that will greet fans at the Pits this summer.

They are installing a brand new $30,000 sound system, replacing the crackly, semi-reliable one that was on its last legs.  

The announcer’s booth and concession stand are being spruced up with fresh licks of paint.

Food and drink will be made available at the concession stand by new partner Left Field Brewery.  

The club is also taking advantage of the City of Toronto’s recent liberalization of beer consumption in certain parks, a move that included Christie Pits. Fans can expect to see vendors roaming the hillsides offering the chance to purchase food and drinks— including beer—while taking in the game below.

Black’s vision of a more exciting and inviting ballpark experience will be unveiled at the Leafs’ home opener on Sunday, May 12. Special guests including hockey Leafs legend Wendel Clark will be present. The hoopla of opening day will include in-game entertainment like hot dog races and a seventh-inning stretch led by sponsorship partner Innovative Fitness.

New Leafs merchandizing will be unveiled in time for the season. Already introduced is a membership program for hardcore fans. Available in two tiers, the purchase of a membership will provide fans with team clothing, souvenirs, discounts, and other goodies.

One of the most striking new sights at the Pits will be redesigned uniforms sported by the home nine. Earlier this spring, the club unveiled three new jerseys on social media: white, royal blue, and powder blue. All three feature the word “Leafs” in bold script across the chest.

The uniforms will be new, but many of the players wearing them will be familiar.

Jeff Lounsbury says he was “slightly surprised” when the new owners invited him to return as the club’s general manager: “But I am glad to be back.”

Lounsbury will continue his project of building a championship team while adding young talent to the roster. 

Several Toronto-born and -raised players have been signed to play for the Leafs, a deliberate move by Lounsbury to make the team more truly local.

“Sometimes guys have to leave [and play elsewhere],” he said. “But if they want to come home to the Leafs, we will try to find a way.”

Lounsbury’s locals will join a veteran core that is returning for another run at the Intercounty Baseball League title.

Popular third baseman Johnathan Solazzo returns for a ninth season with the Leafs. 

He will be reunited with infielders Jordan Castaldo, Dan Marra, Jose Vinicio, Jesse Hodges and Justin Marra.  Outfielders Greg Carrington, Ryan Dos Santos, Marcus Knecht and Connor Lewis are back. 

On the mound, the trio of Wilgenis Alvarado, Angel Castro and Daniel Procopio will pick up where they left off.

Solazzo says that once the club’s ownership situation was settled, the veteran players confirmed their return, one by one.

“We all know we’re a great baseball team and always there until the last out,” Solazzo said. “That one thing we’re missing is to win a championship with this core. It’ll be the cherry on top for a lot of our careers.”

The Maple Leafs’ complete 2024 season schedule can be found at


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