RSEQ University baseball debuts

Quebec University baseball programs eager for future in the RSEQ

A Stingers baseball player takes a big swing at Gary Carter Field in Côte-Saint-Luc on Sept. 13. Photo Alice Martin

After being patient for four long years, the Concordia Stingers’ baseball team has joined the newly-established Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) University division for the 2023-24 season.

Alongside the Stingers, the new RSEQ division will additionally feature rosters from the McGill University Redbirds, the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes (UQTR) and the Université de Montréal (UdeM) Carabins. This inaugural season will showcase the high level of competition that these programs produce, now with a league of their own. 

“Our status within the [Concordia Stingers Athletics] department evolved as well,” said Stingers’ head coach Howard Schwartz. “Going from ‘Just don’t bother us, don’t embarrass us and you can play ball with our name on it’ and no support, to [continuing to stay at] the varsity level and all the responsibilities that come with that.” 

Schwartz explained that the level of talent was always exceptional, yet the former leagues’ administration lacked the understanding to run the division. He added the Stingers’ athletic department would provide further assistance if the teams broke off from the former association to form a sturdier RSEQ conference. The Quebec baseball teams made the league, providing Schwartz’s team with the justification needed for Concordia’s support.

The garnered support has had a positive impact on the baseball team, especially when compared to years past.

A Stingers baseball player takes a big swing at Gary Carter Field in Côte-Saint-Luc on Sept. 13. Photo Alice Martin

The Stingers’ baseball team has a rocky history. From 1995 to 2018, Concordia played in an associative league composed of teams from both Ontario and Quebec universities. When the league disbanded, Schwartz’s Stingers were forced to settle for exhibition play. This style of play continued in 2021 following the cancellation of recreation and athletics in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, in 2022, Concordia played in the Ontario University Athletics division, with their eyes set on 2023, where they finally found their rightful home in the RSEQ.

The administrative support stemming from both the programs and the governing league itself is appreciated by the teams involved, but for the RSEQ varsity baseball league to have success going forward, it comes down to one word:

“Stability,” said Redbirds head coach Christopher Haddad. “[This league] was sort of unstable for the past five to ten years. Hopefully, this becomes bigger than just 12 season games. More teams are involved, it’s great for us, but it needs to be great for baseball in Quebec in general.”

Head coach Howie Schwartz looks at the player at the plate. Alice Martin

When it comes to talent, the Quebec teams are in no shortage. Many players have experience with high-level competition from across Canada and the United States, with resumes that include High-A and all-star game participation in their respective leagues. Players such as Stingers’ pitchers Riley Clahane and Nathan Lavoie have both played for the Junior Elite Montreal Orioles. 

“The RSEQ players represent some of the best junior athlete baseball players in the province,” said Schwartz. “The only level above it would be the first-level entry into the pros, semi-pro.”

After three weeks of baseball transpiring, UQTR remained the only undefeated team with a record of 4-0. Following the first place Patriotes are the Redbirds with a 3-2 record, the Stingers with a record of 2-4 and the last place UdeM Carabins who still hunger for their first win of the campaign at 0-3.

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 2, published September 19, 2023.