“This is your park. You own it, I own it, every Londoner owns it. You can come down here any day of the week if the gates are open.” -Barry Wells (Founder of Friends of Labatt Park group)
Founded in 1877 as Tecumseh Park, Labatt Park holds a special place in Londoner’s hearts as a spot filled with fond memories.
For the past 140 years the park has been able to maintain its location as well as its passion for baseball earning it the title of the world’s oldest continuously operating baseball park and the Guinness World Record for the oldest baseball field diamond.
Barry Wells, founder of the Friends of Labatt Park, says that whether you’re a baseball fan or not, Labatt Park is a must visit place for Londoners this summer. On non-game days the community has an open invitation to go inside the park, enjoy the nice weather, and even make their own barbecue. Wells says that even on game days people shouldn’t feel the need to stick to their seats through the entire nine innings.
“Some people think you go to have your eyes glued to everything that happens on the field, but no. it’s a social thing. You go to the park with your friends; you sit in the stands…if you missed a couple of innings because you were talking to someone, who cares? You can go for a walk, explore the park, there’s an acre and a half behind the scoreboard.”
Wells says that the park is so special to the people of our city that people have even planted memorial trees there.
“What does it say to you when people plant memorial trees somewhere? There’s a connection with their family, there’s a bonding here. People are spending some of the most enjoyable parts of their life here at the forks of the Thames river.”
Perhaps Labatt Park’s involvement in the community is what makes it so special to the people of our city. This Friday, June 23rd, the park will be hosting its annual Purple in the Park night. For this game, the London Majors will be wearing purple to raise awareness about violence against women. Wells says this event “reflects the commitment of the club in addressing a systemic problem.” Half of all ticket sales will go to the London Abused Women’s Centre.
The park has many special sites, yet according to Wells the heart and soul of Labatt Park is the clubhouse. Named after former pitcher and coach Roy McKay, the clubhouse is also a historic site under the Ontario Heritage Act.
Wells says that, “although the drama unfolds on the field…[what’s] more important is what goes on behind the scenes in the clubhouse.”
This July the park will also receive some special visitors as they host the first ever Alumni Day. For this day players dating back to the 1943 team will make an appearance. Another person on the guest list is London’s own Ted Giannoulas also known as the San Diego Chicken. Giannoulas is set to perform on Alumni Day to celebrate the parks 140th year. Decades ago Giannoulas used to change the manual scoreboard at the park and is eager to come back home to Labatt Park.