Sunday , 3 July 2022
Jim Church beside the new Church Field sign named after him on Thursday.

Church Field recognizes coach, board member, umpire Jim Church

Despite feeling like they chose the wrong person, the dozens in attendance would disagree.

The ball diamond on the west end of Bonnyville is now christened Church Field after Jim Church, long-time coach, board member, and umpire.

The announcement on Thursday was a surprise to Church, who didn’t know the honour was coming until he saw the sign.

“[I] Don’t deserve it,” he said, still in disbelief. 

“We tried to name it after somebody else a couple of years ago and they didn’t accept the name kind of thing, so I feel honored, I guess, just surprised. But we don’t do it for recognition. That’s the main thing – it’s for the kids.”

Travis Farrer, president of Bonnyville Minor Ball submitted the request in 2019 to have the diamond that Church works hard to maintain named after him.

His submission went to the Town’s Naming Committee, who agreed to do it. It sits beside the Léon Paul Bougie Ballpark.

“My message to the Town was that communities often wait for an individual to pass before recognizing their contributions, but why not when they are still with us?” he said to the assembled crowd. “What holds us back from demonstrating this appreciation and recognizing how much they mean to our community when we can celebrate them together?

“Jim recently spearheaded the development and construction of two new baseball diamonds after Bonnyville Minor Ball’s registration numbers exploded and we were faced with a diamond shortage. Our Association had 29 teams trying to play ball on just six diamonds. Jim’s hard work and knowledge of diamond maintenance helped make the construction of the two new diamonds east of us a success.” 

Guy Vincent, chair of the Naming Committee and deputy mayor Brian McEvoy spoke at the ceremony to give their congratulations.

Church is a decorated baseball coach over the years, twice receiving the Baseball Canada Grassroots Coaching Award, as well as the Bill Chmilar Award of Merit. He has been president of the Soccer Association, vice president of Bonnyville Minor Ball and has also coached football and hockey. 

He coached competitive teams that went up against some of the best in the province, winning several silver medals, three provincial gold medals, as well as a trip to the Western Provincial Championship in 2013. 

Left to right: Travis Farrer, Phil Kushnir, Jim Church, Brian McEvoy, Kayla Blanchette, and Byron Johnson.

“We were able to compete with the best and got a silver medal in 2012 and a gold medal in 2013 and went to Westerns. It’s been a lot of fun. But it’s not about me, it’s about the boys,” said Church. 

Now a level-3 umpire, Church threw out the first pitch on the U18 diamond and then proceeded to ump the game between Cold Lake and Bonnyville right after the ceremony.

“Every kid deserves to play sports and it can be their safe zone. They may not have the best place at home, and coaching football with Danny Jubinville, the coaches were sometimes the first male role model that boys ever had kind of thing. We tried to be positive figures, became a father figure often and things like that.” 

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.