BONNYVILLE – The first game on the newly named Church Field was umpired by the man who it was named after.
The ball game that was scheduled on June 16 was delayed by a few minutes to allow the Bonnyville Minor Ball Association to recognize one of their own. The unnamed U18 ball diamond, which is located behind Ducharme Motors on the west end of Town, will now be known as Church Field to honour a community member who has gone, and continues to go, above and beyond in Bonnyville.
Travis Farrer, who was the acting President of Bonnyville Minor Ball at the time, approached the Town of Bonnyville Naming Committee in 2019 to make the formal request to recognize Church for his commitment to youth sports.
“Jim Church has been an active supporter of the community since 1998, coaching soccer, hockey, football, and baseball,” Farrer told the group gathered at Church Field. “He has been president of the soccer association, vice-president of Bonnyville Minor Ball, and has been an active coach and positive role model to youth in Bonnyville and surrounding areas for nearly 25 years. He has championed and strengthened athletics in our community, sometimes literally building it from the ground up.”
The naming was a complete surprise to Church, who’s wife blindfolded him on their drive to the diamond. When asked how he was feeling, Church said he was completely surprised and honoured.
“We don’t do it for the reconigition,” he stated. “It’s for the kids, every kid deserves to play sports, and that it can be their safe zone. They may not have the best place at home… The coaches are sometimes the first male role models that boys ever had. We try to be positive figures (for them).”
Church has been recognized for his dedication to the sport of baseball by winning Baseball Alberta’s Baseball Canada Grassroots Coaching Award twice. He was also awarded the Bill Chmilar Award of Merit.
Over the years, Church has coached many teams to Provincial Championships, where they won many silver medals, three provincial gold medals, as well as a trip to the Western Provincial Championships.
“Even after his sons completed their minor baseball journey years ago, Jim continued to coach and umpire out of the love of the game and a commitment to ensuring younger generations of aspiring athletes had the same opportunities for involvement, growth, and team connection,” Farrer said. “Jim’s dedication has brought many rewards over the years. He continues to influence and impact as a mentor to parents, coaches, and athletes. Even if it is now from behind the plate.”
A major achievement for Church in recent years was spearheading the development and construction of two new baseball diamonds when Bonnyville Minor Balls’ registration numbers skyrocketed.
Farrer noted, “Jim’s hard work and knowledge of diamond maintenance helped make the construction of the two new diamonds east of us a success. Over the years he developed a love for diamond maintenance, and nothing makes him happier than a well-groomed diamond. So much so, that for years he has been doing his own diamond maintenance on the very field that will now be named after him.”
According to Church, he wanted the diamonds to be a tribute to Paull Heartt. He was a young man who passed away from mesothelioma.
“We built those diamonds because he was a fantastic athlete, great teammate or rival, it didn’t matter.”
With all of this in mind, it was an easy decision for the Naming Committee when Farrer came to them.
“We’re tasked with reviewing potential citizens from our community that are worthy of recognition,” explained Guy Vincent, chair of the Naming Committee. “I’m confident that the person we honoured tonight is well deserving of this recognition.”
The U18 ball diamond, or the Midget Diamond as Bonnyville Minor Ball called it, shall now be known as Church Field. Bonnyville Minor Ball asked Church to throw out the first pitch.