The Toronto Blue Jays may not ever get to Pond Inlet anytime soon but a piece of the team will be around in the community for years to come.
The Jays Care Foundation, the Blue Jays’ charitable organization, announced on April 14 that Pond Inlet was one of 15 communities around Canada to receive a grant through the foundation’s Field of Dreams program. A total of $150,000 will be allocated to the community to help refurbish the baseball diamond.
Robert Witchel, the foundation’s executive director, said it’s not the first time there’s been a grant North of 60 but Pond Inlet’s is certainly the Northern-most.
“We did Whitehorse last year – the Kwanlin Dun First Nation – but this is the first one in Nunavut and the furthest North.”
The application process to receive a grant is done in two steps, beginning with a simple application. From there, the applications are short-listed and then the work really begins.
“We had about 60 applications this year and from that, we narrowed it down to 20,” said Witchel. “The second part of the process involved getting us the quotes and pricing, who owns the land where the field is located, how much municipal support there is, the impact it will have on the community, how many kids will benefit from this and a general idea of the demographics of the community.”
When it comes to Pond Inlet, the grant will cover almost everything needed to get the field back in good working order, he added.
“Our contribution will go toward the turf installation and it’s artificial because it’s tough to grow natural grass in Pond Inlet,” he said. “There will be bleachers, benches, dugouts and a gravel-based drainage system.”
There is also a provision to fly people up to the community to help put everything together, he said.
The foundation has been working with the Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut’s (RPAN) Get Happy Summer Day Camp program for the past three years and will do so again this coming summer.
Dawn Currie, RPAN’s executive director, said she encouraged all of the communities involved with the day camp program to apply for a grant and when she heard Pond Inlet was in the running, the ears began to perk up.
“I knew they were up there as a finalist in January,” she said. “The Blue Jays told me they had a really strong application and our involvement was a big reason why.”
Currie then learned Pond Inlet would receive a grant but what she didn’t know was the amount.
She said she found out like everyone else did on April 14.
“I knew they would be getting something.”
Once everything is done with the field, it will look – and probably feel – a lot better than the old field as Currie said.
“One Ocean Expeditions is one of our partners with RPAN and they had a cruise ship dock in Pond Inlet last summer,” she said. “One of the things the passengers wanted to do was play a game of baseball once they saw the field. The diamond was in pretty rough shape but they worked with it and did the best they could.”
With this grant, Currie said she hopes more communities will put their names forward and possibly get what Pond Inlet got.
“Jays Care provides millions of dollars for small communities through baseball,” she said. “It takes time to get the proposal together but it pays off because Pond Inlet is going to have a great ball field once everything is completed.”