Cambrian Insurance
Greater Sudbury Lacrosse Association
REPerformanceEddies Restaurant
Voyageurs make the move to the PBLO
2021-02-28

The acronyms might be quite similar but head coach Jean-Gilles Larocque suggests that there is far more to the Sudbury Voyageurs move from the EBLO (Elite Baseball League of Ontario) to the PBLO (Premier Baseball League of Ontario) than simply switching a single letter.

"We've been trying for a couple of years to get into the PBLO," noted Larocque, who went to great length to also mention how much he enjoyed getting to know and work with all those involved with the EBLO.

In his mind, this is a case of moving from very good to better.

"It's not like we were blowing teams out in the EBLO," he admitted. "This just gives our kids more exposure, brings more teams from southern Ontario up here. There is an overall level of professionalism within the PBLO that is impressive."

"It's one of the oldest leagues in Canada, very well established. The league just brings a different dynamic."

Some of that is attributable to the geographic realities. Where the EBLO is heavily concentrated in the GTA and municipalities within an hour's drive or so, the PBLO literally spans the province, with entries from Windsor (Tecumseh) and Sarnia, through to London and Oakville, and all the way east to Ottawa.

And now to the north, as well.

Three Sudbury Voyageurs teams (14U, 16U, 18U) are set to open play in early May, conditional, obviously, on the health care situation in Ontario.

And while a jump in the level of competition for teams that were perhaps slightly better than middle of the pack might be cause for concern for some, Larocque does not see things that way.

"Could we have stayed in the other league? 100%. That would have been fine. I personally think we need to push ourselves a little bit more. I feel that we are ready for this transition, based on the kids that we have."

To wit, an early glance at a comfortably competitive environment was showcased last September, as the locals welcomed PBLO squads from both Oshawa and Ottawa for a series of games, the results of which were extremely encouraging from a Sudbury perspective.

"It gave us a good measuring stick of where we stood," said Larocque. "It also helped to show our players that they do need to step things up with their training, their dedication, those types of things."

Pragmatically, there are some advantages to the flip between leagues. Because of the distances involved between cities, most weekend sets will consist of a four game series, two on Saturday and two on Sunday, the same two teams going head to head for the entire quartet - something that was seldom the case in the EBLO.

"This will be a bit of a war of attrition on any given weekend; who can last the entire weekend," said Larocque. "In the EBLO, we often played two games on Saturday and two on Sunday, but against different teams, because teams in the GTA could play week day games."

"We were facing top pitchers, both days."

With well over a decade of involvement on the local baseball scene, Larocque and the Voyageurs are benefitting from the return of former players to the coaching ranks, his lineup of gentlemen who will be working with the kids representing a very healthy mix of young and old... er, more veteran baseball folks.

Larocque will join forces with Dennis Melanson and Greg and Curtis Johnson with the 18U team,Shawn Paquette, Joey Moher and Ryan Faubert will tackle the 16U challenge, while Larocque returns to lend a hand with the youngest unit (14U) alongside Matt Butler, Mark Messier and Ryan Faubert.

It's all very exciting.

"The league has been amazing," said Larocque. While he is thrilled to show off the turfed infield that was installed at the Terry Fox Sports Complex courtesy of the Jays Care Foundation and the Toronto Blue Jays, Larocque is still hoping to add an upgrade or two to accommodate the league usage of Game Changer, a live on-line scoring system.

"I would like us to have wi-fi at our baseball facilities - I believe we have it at all of our arenas."

With three teams playing some thirty games each and opponents travelling from across the province to spend their summer weekends in Sudbury, he would seem to have a case.

Greater Sudbury Soccer Club