They call it “The Shrine.” When you enter the ballpark at Bayview and Eglinton, you know what you’re going to get pretty much every time.
A well-maintained baseball field. The popular snack bar. The manual scoreboard. Parents, kids, coaches, and the officiating crew. Fans sitting outside the fence at home plate.
And if you’re walking or driving on Eglinton when a game is underway, you might just want to keep your eyes peeled in case a homer makes its way over the fence.
It hasn’t changed all that much since the Leaside Baseball Association formed in 1946.
What also hasn’t changed are the fun, friendships, and competition at all age levels.
One of the most successful programs ever run at Talbot is in the Senior, or over 21, age group. And this year, Baseball Ontario is recognizing the outstanding success of the Leaside Senior teams which played between 1972 and 1989 by inducting them into their Hall of Fame.
The teams, known as the Maple Leafs, Hurricanes, and Leafs over the years, won an incredible 11 OBA titles in 18 years. In addition, they won five Halton County titles and five Greater Toronto League championships.
The teams were led by head coach Ric Fleury and assistants Sam Leonard and Joe Irvine.
Former players Brian Osborne, Brian Revin, and Jim Eliopoulos recall their years with the team with fondness and pride.
Osborne, who played with the team from 1980 to 1990, remembers the “excitable” Ric Fleury, as well as “the odd beer after the game, and maybe a meal across the street at the Sunnybrook restaurant.”
He also notes that there was a true spirit of camaraderie amongst the team members, several of whom he’s still in contact with. Calling the induction “very meaningful,” Osborne notes that the players worked hard and competed as a tight group.
Brian Revin spent several years in the 70s and early 80s as a member of the Leaside senior team. Chosen to play outfield for Team Canada, he took a break from Leaside during those years to represent his country away from Talbot.
Still involved in baseball as a player and a coach, Revin notes that having the Leaside Senior teams inducted into the OBA Hall of Fame “is quite a thrill and honour. We were constantly the top team in Ontario and the recognition we are now getting is heart-warming and appreciated.”
Jim Eliopoulos was a member of the Leaside Seniors both before and after playing for Canada at the 1984 Olympics.
One of his funniest memories involves Fleury bringing a bucket of water and a ladle for the players to drink from. With the bucket sitting outside the dugout between third base and home plate, the water often gathered a fine layer of sand on the surface.
Eliopoulos’s involvement in baseball continued as a bullpen catcher in the 80s for the Toronto Blue Jays, and as a coach for his son’s teams for 14 years.
He “feels deeply honoured to be part of that era” and is still friends with “many if not all” of the players from his Leaside Senior days.
For the past 75 years, “The Shrine” has seen its share of fun, friendships, and great baseball.
For the Senior teams who took the field from 1972 to 1989, their incredible success has now been recognized with induction into the Baseball Ontario Hall of Fame. With 11 championships in 18 years, theirs is a team worthy of such acclaim.