Skip to content

Hall of Fame inductee feels at home at the ballpark

Paul Ante will be inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday
Guelph's Paul Ante has been involved in baseball as either a player or coach for most of his life. A member of the coaching staff of four Guelph Royals teams that won Intercounty Baseball League championships as well as coaching staffs of some Guelph Minor Baseball Association squads that won provincial titles, Ante is a member of the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2024.

If it’s warm and dry outside, there’s a good chance you’ll find Guelph’s Paul Ante at a baseball diamond in town watching his favourite sport.

“I just like the game so I like to come out and support,” the 69-year-old said as he sat near the Hastings Stadium field. “So when there's an 18U game here or a junior game here, I like to watch. I'll go down to Pearson (Park) and watch the Royal City Men's League – of course, that's only when I'm not involved myself. Hey, what can be better than being here on a summer night?”

Ante won’t be at a diamond Wednesday night. He’ll be at the Italian-Canadian Club where he and the other three members of the class of 2024 are to be inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame at the annual Kiwanis Sports Celebrity Dinner.

Ante was born in 1955 in Cambridge, actually Galt before it became amalgamated into Cambridge in 1973.

“The first three years of my life were in Galt and then my father got transferred over here,” Ante said. “I've been here since May of 1958. I consider myself a Guelph person.”

His father, Ross Ante, played for the Galt Terriers and it was only natural the sport would be passed down.

“I have his glove. I have a pocket watch that they gave him and a trophy, a little trophy that they gave him. I have all that stuff,” Ante said.

“Your parents put you into minor baseball. My father played catch with me in the backyard. I've got a photo on my wall with me when I was probably two years old. I'm standing at bat with my little bat and my dad's acting as a catcher and I guess my mother or maybe one of my sisters is probably flipping the ball into me. I guess I was conceived and born to play ball.”

Baseball wasn’t the only sport he played, but it was the one he stuck with the longest.

“I was eight years old when I joined Guelph minor baseball, probably eight or nine,” he said. “I played hockey. I was on a rep team in novice and peewee and I was on the same line with Bill McCreary, the Hall of Fame referee. I grew up with him as a kid and we played on the same line. We won the Tri-County championship in 1964, I think it was, but once I got to bantam, that's when my real hockey abilities, I guess, showed up. Everybody else, they grew into it. I still played hockey. I was just a house league player, but baseball was my No. 1 love.”

He had a lengthy career in what is now the Intercounty Baseball League, playing first base, second base and in the outfield. He had more than 300 hits and had a lifetime batting average in the neighbourhood of .275.

“I did make the all-star team in '85 as an outfielder which I was proud to make that,” he said.

However, title wins were rare for Ante during his playing days.

“Until we got to midget, our club teams here in Guelph weren't all that good as far as our minor baseball system,” he said. “I got to midget, we won a Hamilton tournament which was the first thing I ever won in baseball, being part of the winning team there.”

The drought of title wins continued for a while after he transitioned over to coaching.

“It was kind of a dry spell until the Royals won in '93 and then '97, 2003, 2004.”

He was the IBL Royals’ first head coach after the Baseball In Guelph group led by Bill Craven, Walt McGregor, Les Dunn and John Benvie took over from former team owner David Hastings in 1989.

“I did it for two years and it was kind of tough,” Ante said. “We didn't really have the talent that you really need to compete with the upper teams, but we made the playoffs, which was goal No. 1. We did that, but we knew we had talented kids on the way up, like John Benvie's 18U team. They were a team that was on the rise so we knew that down the line in a few years there was going to be talent.

“And in '89, Dino Roumel had taken over the junior team. Baseball In Guelph, they had asked him to manage the junior team. They won in '89. They had a lot of talented kids on that team and we knew that down the line they we were going to be ready to compete, which we did because we had a good base of local talent. So I kind of helped to get it going.”

But Ante found that being the head guy, the field manager, wasn’t really playing to his strengths.

“I found, though, that my real forte wasn’t really managing but coaching, preparing a team to compete,” he said. “I find that allows the manager to look after other things. You know, like set strategy and do recruitment and stuff like that.”

He’s also coached several GMBA teams and count that as some of his favourite moments in the sport.

“I'm most proud of being part of the coaching staff for Guelph baseball teams when we won OBA championships,” he said. “In 2012, the bantam team here in Guelph won the OBA championship. I had a grandnephew on that team. In 2019, we won the 18U OBA championship. So I was most proud of winning those team awards, being part of the coaching staff for them.”

Nowadays Ante is probably best known for being the first-base coach for the Royals and also for pitching their batting practice.

“I can still throw from 40 feet, throw strikes,” he said. “I've developed a reputation around the IBL. When you get a guy like Rob Butler (of the IBL’s Toronto Maple Leafs) who has played in the big leagues, said to me after watching me at Christie Pitts one Sunday last year. He says, 'Geez, you really throw a good b.p.' So thanks. I've been doing it a long time now.”

And, for Ante, coaching first base is a lot more than just standing there with his hands in his pockets.

“First base, you're not just standing out there. You've got to be watching. You're constantly telling them how many outs there are so that they don't get picked off
because of a pop fly or something thinking there were two outs.

“Basically, you're keeping reminding them of the game situation, how many outs there are, tell them to check the outfielders to make sure where (the ball) went. When a ball's hit, maybe they can get that extra base, that type of thing. I know a lot of guys go out there and just stand there with their arms folded. If you're into the game, you can be a help out there.”

And one of his favourite memories from his playing days came in a game in 1981 that meant nothing in the standings and it was a rare game his parents didn’t attend.

“We were out of the playoffs and we were down in Toronto at Christie Pits and this was a rare year as Toronto wasn't in the playoffs either,” he said. “It was like the last weekend of the season, I think, or maybe the second last. Both teams were not going to make the playoffs, but we're battling each other. I hit a three-run homer in the top of the eighth inning that put us in the lead and then we had to hold on for another six outs. But that was a big thrill to hit the three-run, go-ahead homer in the eighth inning in Toronto in Christie Pits. I hit it off Bob Oravec, who was the first Canadian ever signed by the Blue Jays.”

And his parents had a warm welcome for him when he got back home. They had listened to the game on the radio as a Mississauga station broadcast Leafs’ home
games back then.

Ante is to be inducted into the Guelph Sports Hall of Fame Wednesday along with figure skating’s Pat te Boekhorst, swimming’s Dave Clutchey and basketball/fastball’s Danielle Everitt Sinclair. He has links to the other three as he was a member of the Royals’ coaching staff along with te Boekhorst’s sons Dave and Brent and played on the Royals with her brother Greg Cranker, Everitt Sinclair’s fastball coach Dave Vallance was also a player with the Royals and Clutchey’s wife Beth was a teacher at Guelph CVI when Ante was a student there.

Head table guests at the dinner include veteran sports journalist Steve Milton, Pan-Am Games gold medalist Kiara Lylyk, Paralympic triathlon guide and Triathlon Canada board member Sasha Beck and three-time Olympic hockey medalist Vicky Sunohara.