Welcome to the “Ministry of Cricket and Other Homeless Sports”

Most sports fans know ABC. This is the program that was set up in the early 1990s at the request of the former President of Baseball-Québec, Richard Bellick.

At the time, Canada relied on one franchise academy, the National Baseball Institute, to develop the best baseball players. The headquarters of the NBI was in Vancouver. Richard Bellic found the situation unacceptable and insisted that French-speaking baseball players could improve their French language skills without having to move to the other side of the country.

So ABC was born. The program moved to Montreal at the Claude Robillard Centre. The facilities weren’t perfect, but over the decades, the folks at Baseball Québec have shown that excellent ball players can be developed in gyms.

Over the years, the CBA has developed around 80 players who have been drafted by MLB teams or signed professional contracts. And from that group, eight of them reached the major tournaments. Not to mention the very long list of players who have worn the colors of the national team.

For a union that has always run its business with rather modest means, this is no small feat.

Even today, when CBA youth travel to the United States to compete in the most elite tournaments within their age group (the majority are between 16 and 17 years old), they regularly make it to the finals and show they have nothing to envy to anyone. Many of them are also recruited by American universities in order to follow their development.

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After all these years of excellence, and I couldn’t believe my ears when someone told me, the Canadian Baseball Academy is now without a fixed address. So much so that his players are now training in a special facility bearing the name Ministry of cricket and other homeless sports.

You can’t make it up.

It is certainly understandable that cricketers find it difficult to find a suitable training site in Montreal. Just like Sri Lankan hockey players, they probably have a hard time finding arenas.

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Except for baseball, not cricket. It is a sport that has been played in Quebec for over 150 years and is an integral part of our North American sports culture. Furthermore, this sport is run by one of our most dynamic sports federations.

How did we come to this?

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Quebec’s general manager of baseball, Maxime Lamarche, warned me right away that it was a long story. I summarize it for you.

Maxime Lamarche, General Manager of Baseball Quebec

Photo: Courtesy of: Maxime Lamarche

For 30 years, CBA offices and training sites have always been at Center Claude-Robillard, which also hosts many other excellent athletic programs. From the beginning, ABC’s presence in these places stemmed from an agreement with the City of Montreal.

However, over the past couple of years, the folks at BQ have felt the rug start slipping from under their feet. Beginning in 2021, a Quebec baseball club was required to pay rent to use the facilities, which it had never done before.

We thought it was part of the game and started pushing. But one thing leads to another, we realized that when additional events occurred at Claude Rubilard, our training facilities were removed. We were crushed and that created a certain frustration Lamarche explains.

When the pandemic hit, ABC players didn’t get permission to continue training at Claude Rubilard even though the program identified athletes happiness.

We asked questions and were told that although we had occupied the building for 30 years, we were technically not true partners of the city because our presence was not framed by written agreement.laments Lamarche, unbelievable.

Like many others, ABC players trained in their parents’ basement or garage during the first wave of the pandemic. At the beginning of 2022, life seemed to be returning to normal when the leaders of ABC and Baseball Quebec learned in a letter that they could no longer train at the Claude Rubilard Center.

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Because of the bitter cold, the city of Montreal decided to take over the Marie Victor football complex to house the homeless. On the other hand, we decided to transfer the football programs to the Claude Rubilard Centre. And we were told that because our program is regional and not just for Montreal residents, we had to find another place to train.to continue the CEO of the Quebec Baseball Company.

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Hard to find 5 and a half in Montreal. So I challenge anyone to find, at the touch of their finger, a place big enough to accommodate 50 of the best baseball players who need to run, throw and catch balls, and who have to spend a lot of time in their batting cages.

The ABC players, preparing to leave for development camp in Arizona, had a tough, even crazy, winter.

General view of a baseball stadium

Baseball game at Canac Stadium in Quebec where the capitals play

Photo: Radio Canada/Guillaume Croto Langevin

The coaches of the program were forced to separate their players into two groups, who trained in small special centers in Boucherville (Game Plan) and Montreal (Grand Slam). Student-athletes had serious transport issues and trainers (situation specialists) and support staff faced a logistical nightmare trying to manage their flocks as efficiently as possible.

We were finally able to get everyone together again when we found “Ministry of Cricket and Other Homeless Sports”. But it still causes problems. For example, after training sessions, our athletes have to travel 15 minutes to get to Claude Robillard, where our weight room is. In addition to being not perfect, it reduces our training timeconfirms ABC’s director of performance, Marc Antoine Biroubi

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Icing on the cake now?

The Claude Rubilard Center is undertaking major five-year renovations that will, in turn, deprive ABC of one or the other of its usual training facilities.

It is clear that Quebec baseball cannot continue to run its outstanding program under these circumstances.

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Over the course of 20 years, the Quebec government has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to build indoor soccer centers and develop outdoor artificial soccer fields. Several hundred million more have been spent on hockey stadium projects that are used primarily by professional or major junior teams, and relatively little by the general public.

During all of that, Quebec baseball didn’t collect much.

To say that a few months ago, Prime Minister Francois Legault said he was ready to fund the construction of a baseball stadium for half of the MLB team.

Maybe we have some responsibility in this case. But in order to be able to find funding and build a training complex worthy of this name, I have to put full-time employees into it. However, the size of my team does not allow me to do this. Maxime Lamarche notes.

The truth now is that BQ leaders are working hard in the corners to try to find a training site whose quality matches the training offered to their athletes. But it would be hard to find in the Greater Montreal area.

If we can’t find a good place in the Montreal area, we will consider moving to the Quebec area. There, they have a stadium, a baseball field, a conservatory, and an exceptional weight room.

At some point, our young people will have to be able to train in high-quality, not just right facilities. Currently, we no longer have the minimum in Montreal. We now have a travel program laments Maxime Lamarche.

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