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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

London's Labatt Park and the Osprey Nest

Labatt Memorial Park on an August morning in 2014. (G21D Photo)
In August 2014, London's Labatt Park was the home to the London Majors, a semi-pro baseball team, along with college and youth programs. It was also home to at least one osprey nest.

From 1989 to 1993, Labatt Park was home to the AA London Tigers, and possibly other osprey nests.

I stopped by Labatt Park in August on my way through to Windsor and on to Iowa. In Windsor, I interviewed former London Tiger and London-native Mike Lumley.

Lumley still frequents Labatt as his Western Mustangs university team and his London Badgers youth team both call Labatt home.

This was the same trip where I stopped by other former minor league parks in Geneva, Welland, St. Catharines and Hamilton. I got through each of them in the same day, getting pictures of each from the outside.
A plaque posted at Labatt Park. It notes that the baseball field is believed to be the oldest in continuous use. (G21D Photo)
I made it to London that evening, but not before the sun set. That meant I had to stay over and wait for the morning to get pictures. Not only was Labatt Park home to the Tigers in 1990, it lays claim to the title of the oldest continually operating baseball grounds in the world. It opened in 1877.

The funny thing was, though, when I got into town after dark, there was a game going on. The London Majors were playing in a playoff game against Kichener. I didn't even think to check if there was a game going. I guess I should have.

The only actual parking spots I could see, though, seemed to be across a busy road and it was dark. I'd also had a long day of driving already in and I've never really figured out how to take good night photos. They never turn out. So I made the tough decision to find a hotel and wait for morning.

The next morning, I first stopped by Victoria Park, an easy place to see London's black squirrels. My wife and I went there back in 2006. We also went to Exeter, a little bit north of London. They have white squirrels. My wife loves squirrels.

I then went on to Labatt, thinking I'd just get a couple outside shots and move on to Windsor. I got there and the gate was open and there were a couple people inside. I wandered in to see if they might let me take a few shots around the stadium.

One of the guys came over. I thought he might ask me to leave. But I asked. He was totally cool with it. Actually, he seemed to be more interested in pointing something out. Over on the third base side, on top of one of the light poles was the osprey nest.

So, here are my pitchers from my visit to Labatt Park in London, Ont.:

The Labatt Park grandstands. (G21D Photo)
Home plate at Labatt Park. Note the London L behind home plate and the osprey nest on the light tower. (G21D Photo)
The first base bleachers. (G21D Photo)
Back toward the grandstands. (G21D Photo)
World's Oldest Baseball Grounds (G21D Photo)
Left field in the morning sun. Note the building in the center. It's the same building that made the background of several of the 1990 London Tigers cards, including Steve Green's above. (G21D Photo)
The osprey nest. (G21D Photo)
Footprints from the previous night's game. (G21D Photo)
One of London's many black squirrels helping himself to a snack left over from the previous night. (G21D Photo)
Labatt Field in the morning sun. (G21D Photo)
The London L. At second is a worker getting the field back in order. (G21D Photo)
Outside Labatt Park. (G21D Photo)
From the night before. Labatt Park under the lights. (G21D Photo)
Further Reading:
London Tiger interview: John Toale, Promise to Parents
London Tiger interview: Mike Lumley, Little Details
1990 London Tigers: 21 features

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