Patrick Johnston: Canadians stoked to showcase team's first Pride Night at The Nat

The Vancouver Canadians say they've always promoted making their stands feel inclusive; next week they're planting a rainbow flag firmly in the ground.

Andy Dunn, the president of the Vancouver Canadians, is no stranger to special promotions at Nat Bailey Stadium. On Tuesday the minor league baseball team will hold its first Pride Night. Jenelle Schneider / Postmedia News Files

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The Vancouver Canadians’ inaugural Pride Night, scheduled for Tuesday at Nat Bailey Stadium, was a “no-brainer” idea, according to team president Andy Dunn.

“It’s something we’ve been looking to do,” Dunn said this week. “It’s our belief as a baseball organization that everyone should have the right to play our sport and any fan should have the right to come into any facility — and feel safe and welcome.”

Minor League Baseball partnered with the You Can Play Project this year and initiating Pride Nights was a big focus of discussion at last year’s meetings, Dunn said.

The Mabel League, which has been fostering “a safe and fun environment for lesbians, bisexual women, queer people, trans people and women allies to learn and play recreational softball” since 1990, is one of the groups involved in Tuesday’s Pride Night when the C’s play the Everett AquaSox at 7 p.m.

Jonas Worth, the Burnaby-based director of partnerships and development for the You Can Play Project, was thrilled to see the launch of an event so close to home.

“I have been a fan of the C’s for many years and often describe the experience at The Nat as one of my favourites in all of baseball,” he said. “They also win more often than my beloved Mets!

“Minor league baseball presents an opportunity to engage in markets we typically have no reach in. Vancouver is honestly one of the safest, most supportive cities for the LGBTQ+ community.

“But we know that baseball at all levels still has work to do in fighting casual homophobia and demonstrating the importance of inclusive programming, in the stands and in the locker-room.”

Connecting with baseball fans is another way to bring You Can Play’s message to the broader sports community, he added.

“Now that I call Vancouver my home again, I’m proud that all our major sports franchises, university athletic departments and some youth sport organizations have taken action to demonstrate true support for our initiatives.”

For Tuesday’s game, the Canadians are selling “Pride Packs” that include four tickets and four #PrideAtTheNat T-shirts. The shirts will also be sold at the game. Canadians players will display pride flags on their hats, too.

“And we’re going to have some fun with our in-game presentation,” Worth added, without offering any clues.

Proceeds from T-shirt sales will go toward a number of local LGBTQ+ organizations, including the Mabel League and the West End Softball Association.

“It’s something we’ve always taken great pride in,” Dunn said of the Canadians’ focus on inclusion. “It’s my personal philosophy that we want all fans in all situations to feel welcome every night.”

Is a team float in the Pride Parade next for the C’s? The team has never been asked, but if it was approached Dunn would have no hesitation participating.

“We need people to continue to play our sport, we need people to come out and watch the sport,” Dunn said. “Why not make sure people know it’s available to everyone, no matter race, gender, equity orientation? Being a fan is being a fan, period, bottom line.”

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