IBL keeping options open, even after losing three teams over COVID-19

Toronto Maple Leafs catcher Justin Marra tries to tag out a London Majors base-runner during an IBL game last season at Christie Pits. MAX LEWIS PHOTO

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Jack Dominico does not want his run to end at 52 years.

The owner and GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the eight-team Intercounty Baseball League, based in southern Ontario, is hoping against hope that there will be a season in some form this year.

“If you can play in July, then play,” said Dominico, from his Etobicoke home. “You’ve got to stay positive. I want this thing to get resolved but, of course, the most important thing is that everyone stays safe and we all feel better.”

The IBL announced this week that, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, a traditional season for the historic independent league is not possible and that three of its teams — the Brantford Red Sox. Kitchener Panthers and six-time reigning champion Barrie Baycats — have already indicated that they will not play this year, no matter what.

“The IBL is still hopeful that the pandemic is brought under control in the coming months and that some sort of modified IBL season is possible,” the league, entering its 102nd year, indicated in a statement. “At this point, the IBL can say (with) confidence that we will not have baseball of any kind before July 1; that the majority of teams, while realizing IBL baseball this summer may seem unlikely, are hopeful of playing a modified season.

“The three teams that bailed were reluctant to bail, but were firm in their decision,” IBL commissioner John Kastner told the Toronto Sun. “The five that want to go (including Dominico’s Leafs), really want to go. They’re really hopeful and they really want to play.”

Kastner said that there will be no games in any shape or form without “the full blessing of the province, medical officers of health and our municipalities. We realize a lot of good things would have to happen for us to have some baseball this year, including the absolute safety of our players, umpires, volunteers and fans.”

Dominco said it wouldn’t take much time to get his team, which plays its home games at Christie Pits, together if the league decides to play.

“The players work out all the time,” he said.

However, even if a modified schedule is drawn up, Kastner said a lot of things would probably change.

“One of the questions was: Are you going to have imports? And the answer is, probably not,” said Kastner, who is also general manager of the Stratford Perth Museum, which includes an exhibit of local boy-made-good Justin Bieber. “Are you going to give out the trophy at the end of the year? Maybe not.

“We’re not going to have a traditional season, but are we going to have a season? I’m still hopeful that we do. But will there be an asterisk next to it, yes, absolutely.”
The commish said that the league’s braintrust will likely meet late in June to decide whether even a modified schedule can go ahead.

“You only have to read the newspaper for five minutes to (know) this might never happen,” he said. “But we felt we had to do something. It’s complete conjecture at this point. We have to understand that quite likely this is all for naught. But it’s a contingency (a modified schedule) that we felt obligated to put together.”

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