MLB: Alex Anthopoulos could inspire a new generation of leaders
MONTREAL – Maxime Lamarche, General Manager of Baseball Quebec, does not know if the brilliance of Alex Anthopoulos at the head of the Atlanta Braves, who won their first World Series in 26 years on Tuesday, will have an impact on the pool of players of the province in the summer of 2022. But he is certain of one thing: he will inspire many Quebecers.
“Maybe not baseball players, but let’s talk about adults, sports leaders or people who dream of working in professional sports,” he explained in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press. We talk a lot about the return of Major Baseball to Montreal one day: it still sends a strong message to see a guy from Montreal succeed in getting there. Maybe that means that people here will have the chance to do it again, that they don’t have to come from New York, Florida, or St. Louis.
“With this idea of returning to Major Baseball in Montreal, maybe there will be a few Quebecers in their twenties, thirties and forties who say they will have this chance. That this organization may be for them. It also sends this message: anyone who dreams of working in professional sport, if you work hard, if you are ready to start making photocopies like Alex did with the Expos, it is possible. Alex is definitely one of the brightest guys around, but it’s still doable. «
Lamarche was also able to see to what extent Anthopoulos can inspire the new generation of sports leaders.
“The first time I met him was around 2011. Paul Beeston (then president of the Toronto Blue Jays) had decided to have a bigger impact on amateur baseball in the country. Alex had come to meet us in Quebec to make a big announcement. Talking with him was so enriching. He always left a big impression on me. «
For the time being, Lamarche believes that Anthopoulos has given Quebecers pride.
“People who have been in the upper echelons of baseball for a long time, the Alex Agostino (auditor for the Northeastern US of the Philadelphia Phillies), (players’ agent) Jethro Supré, or commentators like Jacques (Doucet) or again Marc Griffin, felt a great sense of pride. We are all very proud that it is a Quebecer who led his team to the playoffs and the World Series. «
Baseball still growing
Baseball Quebec does not need to wait for the Expos 2.0 to experience great growth. Again in 2021, despite the pandemic, the provincial federation saw a marked increase in its members, allowing more players to participate than in 2019, before the pandemic.
« The big challenge we have in front of us is that we had such a terrible end of history with the Expos, that we still have to convince people that baseball is not a sport in decline. . On the contrary. It is possibly the only team sport in amateur sport that has seen significant increases year after year. Baseball is growing. Baseball is very healthy.
“This year, we had more than 40% increase among 4 to 7 year olds, which is the initiation, the beginning of our operations. The future is very bright, but it will come with its share of challenges: we will need land, quality spaces. «
In this regard, he feels a great openness on the part of the municipalities.
“Three weeks ago, we participated in the Congress of the Association québécoise du loisir municipal (AQLM). We were three or four federations present: usually, they are manufacturers of equipment, gymnasium floors, etc. who are there. The response from the municipalities has been incredible. Representatives would stop by our booth and tell us how baseball has picked up in their homes and that they will have to review their infrastructure.
“Baseball fields in Quebec were built, in some cases, nearly 75 years ago. The fences are hoarded, the infields are demolished, the sprinkler systems are no longer up to date or not working altogether, the drainage systems are full of earth, the lights no longer have the strength they had. The municipalities are seeing that they are there. Many call us to present their master plans to us so that we can tell them if they are in the right direction. We have these calls every week. «
So much so that the federation sometimes has to transform itself into a project manager.
“There aren’t many Quebec companies that have developed this expertise over the past 30 years,” says Lamarche. If they are asked to build an arena, an aquatic complex or a soccer field, they have it: dozens, if not hundreds, have been built in recent years. A few years ago, four or five years ago, the AQLM set up, with our help and that of a few partners, a basic guide on how to renovate or build a baseball field.
“On the other hand, we also try to seek expertise elsewhere. Baseball fields are probably built around fifty a week in the United States. There are new technologies, new ways of operating. We are trying to offer that to the municipalities, to update them and to help them in this. «
Definitely, it’s not just the Braves who are successful.