The Blue Jays hosted a day of baseball celebrations in Ottawa on Friday, officially opening a newly refurbished baseball diamond in South Nepean and providing a Blue Jays Baseball Academy Instructional Clinic hosted by select Blue Jays alumni.
Through Jays Care Foundation, the club invested a $35,000 Field of Dreams grant in the City of Ottawa for the reconstruction of two player dugouts at the Eagles Nest Baseball Diamond in South Nepean. The endeavor will impact more 390 East Nepean Little League Baseball members throughout the 2014 season and beyond. To celebrate, Blue Jays representatives and alumni made their way to Ottawa to continue to grow the game of baseball in Canada -- hosting an instructional clinic for Rookie League participants from the Boys & Girls Club of Ottawa, led by Jesse Barfield, Duane Ward and Devon White.
"The donations we made here in East Nepean were to ensure that you have a safe place to play," Jays Care executive director Danielle Bedasse told the gathered members of the Boys & Girls Club of Ottawa. "We're thrilled to have partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of Ottawa for Rookie League and we're especially excited for you to get some special tips during today's clinic from our Blue Jays alumni. ... I know you're going to have an amazing experience."
Following opening remarks, gathered Rookie Leaguers we led by the former Blue Jays -- each of whom knows the work of the Boys & Girls Club firsthand -- in baseball drills focusing on hitting, baserunning and fielding.
"I grew up at the Boys & Girls Club in my hometown," said Ward. "I know the importance of these clubs ... what they can do for a kid who doesn't think he or she can amount to something. To be able to come out here and watch what Jays Care does with the kids from this club ... it's a great feeling to be able to be part of it."
While the Rookie Leaguers broke into teams and began their game, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson stood in the newly refurbished dugouts and spoke about his appreciation for both the field refurbishment and the Blue Jays' continued presence in his community.
"We're very appreciative of Jays Care Foundation and the fact that they contributed $35,000 for these amazing new dugouts," said Watson. "There's a strong baseball tradition in South Nepean and ... we wanted to have the best field and dugouts. We're very, very grateful for not only receiving the funding, but having three great players come out and give some tips to these kids from the Boys & Girls Club [of Ottawa]. The Jays are obviously Canada's team; being Canada's capital, it's great that they've come out here to a city outside of Toronto and helped support our local kids. As Mayor, I'm very proud of the work the Jays are doing across the country to help young kids become great athletes."
Matt Warner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.