Grosse Isle Minor Ball Project
Grosse Isle, Manitoba is a small rural community with a big love for baseball. It is home to two baseball diamonds, Attree Field (Diamond #1), the largest diamond and main location for baseball activities in the town, as well as Diamond #2 which is used by younger athletes. Despite being well-maintained by numerous volunteers since its construction in the mid-1980s, time has inevitably degraded the facility’s materials. In 2020, a team of dedicated community members came together to begin the Grosse Isle Minor Ball Project (GIMBP) and applied for Baseball Manitoba’s Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Commission (MLLC) Grant to restore both fields to their full potential.
Baseball has always been at the heart of Grosse Isle. Many baseball games have been and currently are played at Attree Field. It was home to the Grosse Isle Blue Jays (1988-1993), a Senior baseball team that was inducted into the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012. Currently, many Interlake teams rent the field for games. Generation after generation has maintained the field, creating a sense of pride amongst the volunteers (and their families) that care for it. It is the only field in the town that can be used by age groups 13U and older, making its condition that much more important for the baseball community.
Volunteers prepping Attree Field for the addition of new clay bricks.
“For many years, community volunteers have spent hours working on Attree Field, ensuring that it is maintained and in the best shape possible, often giving up weekends and evenings,” said Monica Baldwin, 2nd Vice President and Baseball Coordinator of the Grosse Isle Recreation Club. Monica is one of the main volunteers working on the GIMBP and is the one who submitted Grosse Isle’s application for our MLLC Facility Grant.
Volunteers adding the clay bricks to the batter's box.
Diamond #2 is located on the Grosse Isle School grounds and is used by 9U and 11U athletes. It has also been well-maintained over the years, but just like Attree Field, it needed new materials and landscaping.
Once the GIMBP team received the $10,000 MLLC Facility Grant, Phase 1 of the project began. This phase consisted of rebuilding the pitcher’s mound and batter’s box on Attree Field with the use of clay bricks, cutting back the infield to meet regulation size, adding new sand to both Attree Field and Diamond #2, and adding a gate to the North-West corner of Attree Field to allow tractor access.
New sod being added to Attree Field.
”[The MLLC Facility Grant] was the start of [the GIMBP] and has led to additional funding from the RM of Rosser and the RM of Rockwood,” said Baldwin.
“It would have been very difficult to do the work that we did [without the MLLC Grant],” said Jason Cassils, Monica Baldwin’s brother and maintenance crew volunteer.
The double gate that was added to allow tractor access to Attree Field.
This additional funding allowed them to upgrade Attree Field even further, as well as begin Phase 2 of the project, which ultimately helped them save costs. One of the main reasons the upgrades were so important was that the facility conditions were becoming unsafe for coaches and athletes.
A volunteer working on restoring the pitcher's mound.
“The infield [on Attree Field] was very hard and needed some new materials,” said Cassils, “and the fences in front of the dugouts needed repair because lots of balls go flying in there.”
New fencing being added to Attree Field.
Phase 2 consisted of adding bullpens to and screening in the dugouts on Attree Field and replacing the backstop, dugouts, mound, and batter’s box on Diamond #2. The funding from these grants has made the facility maintenance a lot easier and has ensured that their diamonds will continue to be used for many years to come. The maintenance team is 100% volunteer-based and does everything from dragging, watering, and lining the diamonds, to mowing the grass, keeping the facility clean, and more.
“It’s a team effort here, community members will often come and help,” said Cassils.
“Families take turns maintaining the diamonds getting their children involved in hopes that one day they will continue to maintain the diamonds and ensure that they take pride in their community,” said Baldwin.
Jason’s daughter Rianna contributes to the facility’s maintenance by dragging the diamonds and preparing them for games.
Rianna Cassils on Attree Field.
Some of the athletes who play at the facility participate in maintenance as well. They’ll often rake the mound and home plate and put the tarps back on the infield after using the diamond.
“The 15U team helps take care of the diamond,” said Cassils, “they take some pride in it, which is really nice.”
The facility is also a common meeting place for many community members.
“[Next to the facility] is where most people come and get their mail,” said Cassils, “People are always driving in and they come over to ask ‘when’s the next game?’ It’s nice to get that back in the community.”
Attree Field after sod cutting.
Baseball is the only organized sport Grosse Isle offers. The upgrades made to the facility have enhanced the beauty of the small town and has helped put Grosse Isle on the map. The volunteers are excited that athletes can get back on the diamonds and hope the tradition of the community maintaining the facility continues for years to come.
The Grosse Isle Minor Ball Project team is currently fundraising for the third and final stage of the project, which will improve the safety of their batting cages.