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New baseball team-up aims to turn Sudbury into a diamond powerhouse

Laurentian, Valley East Minor Baseball and The Baseball Academy have their eyes on the prize
A new partnership between The Baseball Academy, the Laurentian Voyageurs and the Valley East Minor Baseball Association spells good news for baseball in the Nickel City, says Jean-Gilles Larocque of The Baseball Academy. (File)

More positive news out of the local baseball community, as the Laurentian Voyageurs announced, earlier this week, a new multi-year partnership that combines forces with both the Valley East Minor Baseball Association (VEMBA) and The Baseball Academy.

As part of the agreement, which will run for a period of five years, all VEMBA rep teams will be donning the blue and gold colours of Laurentian Varsity Athletics, re-branded as the "Junior Voyageurs".

The same will hold true of both the U15 and U18 Elite teams that have been managed under the auspices of Jean-Gilles Larocque and The Baseball Academy. The squads will begin play for their inaugural season in the Elite Baseball League of Ontario, competing as the Junior Voyageurs.

In return, all VEMBA and Baseball Academy athletes will receive a "Jr Voyageur Membership Card," which provides free admission to any LU varsity event. VEMBA athletes will also receive a discount off any Voyageurs sport-specific camp program.

The partnership and club teams represent the latest step forward for all those involved with the sport, noted Sudbury's most ardent baseball proponent. 

"The 18U team has played universities in the U.S., we've been to Florida with both teams, they're going to compete in the EBL this summer," said Larocque.

"Now that we have the indoor facility, we'll be competing a little more consistently. You're going to start seeing players, I'm hoping, playing for the Ontario Youth team in the next few years."

"At the grass roots level, at the rookie age group, there's 18 teams this summer between the two associations (Sudbury and Valley East)," Larocque continued. "The grass roots are there — we need to do a better job at the tail-end, and you're starting to see that now."

Not that he sees his work as complete, quite yet. 

"What I would like to see happen is that rep or select baseball, whatever you want to call it, would leave both associations," said Larocque. "Both associations could combine a board to create 'Voyageur Baseball.' Any players looking to play at the rep level would be part of Voyageur Baseball, throughout the entire community."

And if one has yet to connect the dots, don't be the least bit surprised to catch wind of a Laurentian Voyageur entry into the OUA Baseball loop, with confirmation possible, if not likely, within the next four to six weeks.

"Baseball is getting better within Canada," said Larocque, who experienced the NCAA baseball environment as a player, a couple of decades ago. 

"Canada is now becoming an option. From a financial standpoint, it can make sense. From a baseball standpoint, it's going to make sense."

"As an organization, VEMBA is excited to help lead the resurgence of baseball in Northern Ontario, and our newly formed alliance with the Laurentian Voyageurs adds to our ambitious goals for local youth," said VEMBA president Denis Dalcourt and V-P Michel Larivière in a media release last week.