Local baseball fans will have to wait another season for pro ball to make its return to the nation’s capital.
The Ottawa Titans, who were slated to play their inaugural season in the independent Frontier League in 2021, have announced they will not take the field this season due to uncertainty over when the Canada-U.S. border will reopen.
“With the continued closure of the U.S.-Canada border and the uncertainty of when it will reopen, the Ottawa Titans in conjunction with the Frontier League have agreed to make 2022 our inaugural season,” Titans vice-president Regan Katz said in a statement. “This was not an easy decision, but we believe it is the right one.”
Another Canadian entry in the league, the Trois-Rivières Aigles, will also be sidelined for the 2021 campaign. Instead, a travelling Canadian club made up of players from the Aigles, Titans and the Quebec Capitales will start the season in Illinois. Should the border reopen by mid-July, the team will play its remaining home games in Quebec City and Trois-Rivières.
“After having to suspend our 2020 season, we were excited to play 2021 with our full 16 teams and to bring the tremendous market of Ottawa into the Frontier League,” Frontier League deputy commissioner Steve Tahsler said in a news release.
“Unfortunately, the continued and understandable impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are causing us to change our plans. Our three Canadian members have proven to be tremendous additions and great partners. We look forward to resuming a full league schedule for 2022.”
The new Ottawa franchise is owned by Winnipeg entrepreneur Sam Katz, who also owns a minor-league franchise in the Manitoba capital.
Katz is partnering with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group in the new venture, which rose from the ashes of the now-defunct Ottawa Champions of the former Can-Am League. That circuit folded after the 2019 season, with five of the six teams joining the Frontier League.
Long-term lease deal
The new Ottawa ownership group signed a 10-year agreement last fall to lease city-owned Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton Park on Coventry Road, which seats roughly 10,000 fans.
Katz told OBJ last year he’s not worried about Ottawa’s checkered past as a baseball town.
The former Winnipeg mayor said his track record proves he can make baseball work in a mid-sized Canadian city where the sport has struggled.
Many skeptics initially predicted the Goldeyes would never last when that team was launched in 1994, he noted.
“My background is basically sports and entertainment,” Katz said last fall. “I believe that the public … is always looking for quality and affordable family entertainment. It’s up to you to motivate people to come to your event and make sure that when they come to your event, they want to come back.”