Roadside-attraction showdown: Sault Ste. Marie’s giant baseball

Do not try to pitch or hit this ball — unless you happen to be 40 times the size of a regular person
By Nick Dunne - Published on Aug 06, 2021
Sault Ste. Marie’s giant base has 108 stiches, each about 20 centimetres long. (Facebook/ Soo Minor Baseball Association)



Maybe you’ve already been to Niagara Falls or up to the top of the CN Tower. But have you made a pit stop near a giant goose? Or snapped a selfie next to a giant wheel of cheese?

Those are just a couple of the roadside attractions on offer in towns and cities across Ontario, which have devised unusual and eye-catching ways of setting their communities apart.

If you’re looking for summertime fun close to home, you can hit the road and check out these local legends. If you’re looking for summertime fun even closer to home, you can check in with over the next two months — each week, we’ll be bringing you profiles of the weirdest, wackiest, and largest objects gracing Ontario’s roadways.

At the end of August, you’ll get the chance to pick your favourites when we open up the voting brackets. So travel Ontario with us, and get ready for a showdown.

Check out the other contestants here.

After spending roughly 500 hours welding together the 3,900-kilogram, three-metre-tall steel ball, sandblasting it into a sphere, painting it white, and dropping it into a 30-centimetre-deep hole at Sault Ste. Marie’s Sinclair Yards, there was only one thing left for Mike Lebel and Graham Newman to do to make a massive baseball: cobble together the seams. “We agonized over how big they’d be and how many of them there would be,” Newman says.

After doing some arithmetic to determine and preserve the precise scale of an MLB-approved baseball, Lebel and Newman — president and vice-president, respectively, of the Soo Minor Baseball Association — figured each of the 108 stitches had to be about 20 centimetres long. 

baseball players in front of a giant baseball
The 2008 under-18 Black Sox pose with the giant baseball . (Courtesy of Mike Lebel)

The raw materials were donated by a friend, who acquired them when he bought land that had been a site of Union Carbide, a chemical supplier for Algoma Steel. The metal sphere once stored liquid nitrogen, but now, painted up and smoothed out, it carries a sponsorship from Diamond Baseballs — in exchange for its name painted on the ball, it sends enough baseballs each year to run the league. 

Since its installation in 2004, the Soo’s giant baseball has become an inevitable photo-op for any minor-league team that drives Highway 17 or crosses the international bridge from the United States to play the Soo Black Sox or any of the other teams in the Soo Minor Baseball Association. “I don't think there's a day goes by that we don't have somebody stop and have their picture taken here,” says Lebel, president of the association. (Those visitors might also want to make a stop at the Louisville Slugger museum and factory. Its giant bat, like the giant baseball, is roughly 40 times the size of the genuine article.)

 a giant baseball on snowy ground
The steel ball weighs 3,900 kilogram and stand three metres tall. 
​​​​​​​(Courtesy of Mike Lebel)

The Soo is ultimately a hockey town, but its proximity to the U.S. has allowed it to develop its baseball program. Lebel and Newman say that numerous athletes from their program have gone on to college and university programs; three alumni have been drafted to the MLB, and one former player is now a scout for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Having been governing and growing the league for 30 years, they take pride in both building community and developing the game locally. “It's rewarding for us to see some of these young men achieve a goal that they've for a long time. It also sets the bar for the younger players in our programs to see that the accomplishments of some of these players and that if they wish to reach that level, it is attainable through hard work and dedication and commitment.” The kind of dedication and commitment, perhaps, that went into spending 500 hours making one of the world’s largest baseballs. 

This is one in a series of stories about issues affecting northeastern Ontario. It's brought to you with the assistance of Laurentian University.

Ontario Hubs are made possible by the Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust & Goldie Feldman.

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