Sports Baseball

Junior baseball headed to Portage

By Aaron Wilgosh, The Graphic

Portage la Prairie will be home to a team in the Manitoba Junior Baseball League this season. (file photo)

Portage la Prairie will be home to a team in the Manitoba Junior Baseball League this season. (file photo)

They'll be named after an iconic Portage team, the Phillies.

Junior baseball is on its way to Portage la Prairie this summer but a few final updates are required to get the two baseball diamonds at Rotary Republic Park up to the correct specs of the Manitoba Junior Baseball League’s rules.

The Portage Phillies would be the team, according to the driver of the junior baseball movement in Portage, Shane Moffatt.  

“First off you have to go through the league and convince them you’ll have enough players and that your baseball diamonds are in tip-top shape. I think we’ve done that with what is planned to be finished this year,” says Moffatt. “The Portage Regional Recreation Authority (PRRA) did some work on Diamond 8 for a while last year and it looks like it’s going to be ready to go. I talked to the junior league and we’ve been accepted so now it’s just making sure we have enough bodies to put on the diamond and league fees.”

The diamonds have been through a lot over the past year including updates to the dugouts and fences on both Diamonds 7 and 8 in the hopes of bringing in larger scale tournaments like provincial championships, along with a junior baseball team. Moffatt says the city assured him there would be funding to help finish the diamonds this year and he says there still is a lot of work to do to get them up to those provincial standards.

“Diamond eight is close to being fully complete,” Moffatt says. “They still have to do touchups to the infield, add foul posts, refinish the pitching mound, and just this year the PRRA will have to get power out to our new score clocks we’ll be putting in thanks to an incredible anonymous donation.”

The anonymous donor, who is originally from Portage la Prairie but now lives in Alberta, donated $22,000 for two scoreboards. $16,000 for a new 15-by-8 foot score clock set to be installed on Diamond 8 right by the new batting cages, which in turn, were also donated by the very same generous citizen. The second will be installed on Diamond 7 so it isn’t facing the sun. Both will be operated by remote controls from anywhere around the field. 

15 players have committed to the Phillies already. Two from Holland, one from Austin, and the rest are from Portage la Prairie. Although a relatively young team by MJBL standards, Moffatt expects them to be competitive from the start. The team is currently looking for sponsorship to help with league fees, and to keep player fees at almost nothing.

“At the end of the day I hate having to ask the business community to help but without them, some of the projects just wouldn’t go ahead,” says Moffatt. “It’s going to cost me about $8,000 to get the team off the ground with league’s entrance fees, and other first-year costs. I’m going to put my time into this and help get these kids on the field this summer in Portage la Prairie.”

Moffatt is going to take on the head coach role and will be getting his staff officially set sooner than later. The junior baseball league requires an executive but Portage doesn’t have anything put into place yet. Moving forward coaches will be added to the roster, and an executive board will follow. The Phillies will be joining Altona Bisons, Carillon Sultans, Elmwood Giants, Interlake Blue Jays, Pembina Valley Orioles, St. Boniface Legionaires, and the St. James A’s in the MJBL. 

“The baseball team is definitely going to happen this year,” adds Moffatt. “I just really hope we can finish off the diamonds because the money that provincial championships bring to a community through participants and their families is astounding. It would be a huge boost for the community in the end”

There was no indication of funds allocated toward the baseball diamonds at Rotary Republic Park in the city’s 2018 operating budget.

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