It’s hard to believe there was a time when Canada’s Alberta's capital city wasn’t a hockey town. But long before Edmonton adopted the "City of Champions" moniker, people filled the bleachers at the stadium in Ross Flats (where Telus Field now stands) to cheer for teams such as The Edmonton Legislatures (1880-1907) and the Edmonton Eskimos (1910-1953). In 1980, Triple-A baseball came to town and Edmontonians rallied around the Edmonton Trappers until the team was sold and moved to Texas in 2003.
"Baseball was always a really big part of life here, but as hockey has grown and become such a juggernaut, we’ve kind of forgotten about it," says baseball fan and memorabilia collector Reed Clarke. A recent graduate of Athabasca University’s executive MBA program, he began looking into the city’s baseball history during a course on entrepreneurship that challenged students to come up with a business plan for a new venture. "I did a bit of research and found out that baseball has a very rich history in Edmonton that goes back more than 100 years. I thought it would be cool to bring back some old teams and pay homage to them," he says.
A fan of vintage apparel, Clarke figured he’d come up with the blueprints for a company selling merchandise inspired by old baseball teams in Edmonton. It seemed that there was plenty of room in the market (there were few Canadian companies selling vintage sports apparel and none in Western Canada) and the start-up costs would be low (requiring little more than a website and a social media marketing plan). By the end of the course, he’d decided that the business idea had legs and created a company he called Ross Flats, after the downtown neighbourhood where baseball is still played.
Over the last year, Clarke has sold his vintage baseball apparel — mainly tee-shirts and hats — through the company’s website and local retailers like Habitat etc. and The Makers Keep. His products are manufactured in L.A., but designed, printed, tagged, and packaged in Edmonton. All bear the logos of champion-winning baseball teams, such as the Edmonton Drakes, Edmonton Dodgers, and even the Edmonton Trappers (for which Clarke acquired the trademark with the help of a local law firm).
To track down the logos of the old teams, Clarke dug through online archives and purchased old memorabilia — like team jerseys, game programs, and stickers — from sites like eBay and Kijiji. With help from a graphic designer, he created vector-based images of the logos to create sharp-looking designs.
Clarke says the business has been well-received and since the website’s customers come from across Canada, he’s considering expanding his product line to include historic teams from other cities. In the meantime, he hopes Ross Flats will continue to capture the imaginations of nostalgic sports fans like himself — and maybe rekindle the community’s interest in baseball, too: “I think it should be more popular. It’s a shame we ever lost any of those teams.”