A surname very familiar to the local sports scene is stepping up to the plate to buy the Toronto Maple Leaf Baseball Club, keep its community vibe at Christie Pits and hopefully improve upon it.
The Sun has learned a deal to purchase the team from the estate of the late Jack Dominico was completed Friday. The new skippers are Toronto businessman Rob Godfrey and lawyer Keith Stein.
Rob’s father, Paul, helped the Blue Jays take flight in 1977 as chairman of the former Metropolitan Toronto, later serving as their president with Rob a senior executive.
In addition to his counsel duties and many business interests, Stein has held a board position at Ontario Place and 20 years ago was involved with Rob Godfrey in the short-lived Toronto Phantoms indoor football team.
About 40 individuals and groups in Canada and abroad expressed varying degrees of interest to buy the Leafs after it was announced this past summer that the Intercounty Baseball League team, considered a flagship of the eight-team semi-pro southern Ontario circuit, would change hands.
The family of well-known owner/promoter Dominico did not wish to continue its 54-year-old association with the franchise after Jack’s passing in January of 2022 at ae 82.
It’s believed the purchase was somewhere in the $1-million range, a price the estate had hoped to get from the start for what it considered an undervalued asset that just needed the right off-field tweaks.
While not divulging details when confirming the sale, Ty Crawford, legal counsel for the ball team and representative of the estate, said “the people buying it were just as important as the price.
“(Godfrey and Stein) are a good fit, familiar with the entertainment aspect, who will keep the team at Christie Pits, and maintain free admission.
“They will also bring a lot to the local community, from Dupont all the way south of College Street. They’ll get sponsorships, marketing, promotions in different ethnic communities, something besides baseball that will bring more people out.”
The laid-back Sunday afternoon or weeknight home game scene on the hills at Christie and Bloor is one of the city’s best kept traditions, but the Leafs still had to meet high costs through the years without the benefit of ticket revenue.
Dominico worked tirelessly for decades to get sponsorship and donations, but many believe the new owners are keen on realizing long-discussed concepts such as a beer garden, souvenir and food concessions, pre and post-game concerts and improved seating, all to be discussed with the City of Toronto which issues an annual permit to the Leafs for the diamond.
The sale must still be approved by the rest of the IBL.
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“This took a long time and was not done lightly,” Crawford said of the talks, facilitated by Cary Kaplan of Cosmos Sports. “There were a lot of feelers, a lot of people kicking tires from places as far away as Abu Dhabi.
“And why not? It’s one of the most iconic sports names in Canada (the baseball Leafs pre-date the hockey team in town back to the late 19th century) and there are 12 million people in the GTA.
“Blue Jays games are becoming like watching an opera. Our games are outside, there’s oxygen, trees, and real grass. We’re right on the subway line. And we’re free.”