What once took place in this Duncan Street backyard, has now evolved into a regulated league that is unique to Toronto

Find your groove – toss an axe

BATL Axe is a niche sport league leaving lasting marks all over Toronto

Even in his youth, Trevstopher Welshinson had trouble expressing himself, so he grew a beard longer than his name.
Typecast by way of his intimidating exterior, he fell victim to misrepresentation. So maybe what transpire was foreseeable to some.
 
The shy and unassuming pastry chef would pick up an axe and find a family.
 
”I love it, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. ” gushed the burly champion atop a bed of sawdust and happy memories.
“I don’t want to say I was socially awkward, but now, it’s a bit easier to talk to people in a league with 130 people. It used to take me a while to get out of my shell around new people.”
BATL Alternative Sports is the company name and recreational lumberjack targeting is the game – Toronto has caught on to a niche sport for the ages. The Backyard Axe Throwing League, affectionately known as BATL, has expansion on its horizon for the third time in just more than twice as many years.
 
If you want in, you’ll have to join the queue (including roughly 30 alumni re-applicants), but there is a silver lining according to axe daddy Matt Wilson.
“We are expanding into a second location in January of the new year. It will be on Cherry Street, right off of the Lakeshore and it will boast 16 lanes with our arenas of four lanes each – five times the size of our current space.”

In the mean time, feel free to get to know your B.A.T.L family.
“I love the people I’ve met, and I love the competition. A lot of people peg me as the villain and boo the hell out of me,” Trev gestured to his favourite critics.“It’s very unique in the sense that everyone is cheering for you, but the next second they boo you hoping you’ll screw up. It makes you want to be better.”
His name is found three times on the highly coveted Champions Wall, the installation is the newest addition to the league’s current home in west Toronto, the Junction on Sterling Road. Throwing since the backyard days, the seven-year veteran has only missed one night week season – much like his pal Greg Miller aka Onion, who developed just as much dedication in his two years.
Onion is a mechanic who found his rotation and release point quite quickly, earning a playoff stint each season. The two enjoy one another’s company every Wednesday night, in the same vain of Subway Sandwiches commercials, Wednesday is known around B.A.T.L as Pekko.

As families extend, dynamics change as new members cause growth. The same is true in the B.A.T.L family. For a quick reference to which night you may like to adopt you, take a peak at the family dynamics associate with each night. Each night was dubbed by Wilson, but the motley crew that attends has evolved it.

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nights
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“You become like a weird little family, everyone is a bit different but we all share axe-throwing as something we have fun with.” said Onion who, like Trev, found himself a community while hobby shopping. 

United through the axe are waiters, construction workers, business people, musicians, just to name a few. Jen Ben, the only female champion, does improv comedy at Second City – Bobby used to work for a funeral home. 

Routines are as varied between throwers as the crowd that B.A.T.L itself attracts, so everyone does things a little differently. Grip is one way technique differs, another is hydration.

“You bring your own beer if you want, I don’t even drink, but it’s different for everyone,” it depends on what’s at stake for Onion when it comes to his beverage of choice. “When it comes to playoffs, it’s different – more fun, you stay competitive but need to stay loose.”

That being said, part of the adoption process into B.A.T.L is paperwork. Should you choose to B.A.T.L, you do so responsibly. Few are willing to risk their sacred season stats (that determine playoff placement), or newfound bonds for the sake of a hangover.

“I’ve heard of only one person has been asked to leave because he got a little carried away, and it was only for that night. He never never came back though, just embarrassed, I guess.”

The club went so far as to says there has never been a serious injury. Ever. Except that one time Onion saw a nicked a finger drip from an overzealous end-of-match hug.

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So who opened the doors for this lunacy to give way?

Well, a couple of people, actually.

The league that would eventually become his baby, was just a twinkle in Wilson’s eye on a rainy cottage trip. Wood and metal were all Wilson needed to satiate his boredom and eventually spur his idea – that primal satisfaction of the elements colliding could catch.

“’I’m throwing axes in my backyard, if you’re interested come on out,” Trev recalled the mass email Wilson sent out upon returning, “and ten of us showed up, none of us knew what we were getting ourselves into.”

Wilson knew, and knew to be proactive since the hacking sound would undoubtedly carry, maybe even cause concern. He hopped the proverbial fence to his neighbours and told him what was up – the music and throwing would be done by 11 and he promised, “ we don’t disturb you.”

His neighbours didn’t seem mind what was turning into a hotbed for a polite group of axe-wielders, since they offered up the adjacent backyard for B.A.T.L’s first expansion.

Those were the good old days at College and Bathurst. A little time and TLC later the league has grown by numbers and into a new home – roughly 130 participants, 80-100 alumni, established rules, and precision measurement devices can be found around the more spacious lanes of play.

Incredible artwork house the lanes, depicting fire and ice as another tribute to Wilson’s Finnish heritage,also a reminder of the old lanes that still stand, where the new tenants apparently don’t seem to mind.

This league has evolved far beyond just a drinking game gone right.

"Every time I’m in the neighbourhood I’ll pass by, just for nostalgia. Back when we first started it was just a bare grey wall, weeds growing everywhere, completely back watered and just bare. It was completely not what it is now - a bunch of mounted wood thin sharpies for target markers. We all sucked in the beginning because non of us had any guidance. It's a bit more, professional in a way, than it was 6 years ago." - Trev Welshinson
“Every time I’m in the neighbourhood I’ll pass by, just for nostalgia. Back when we first started it was just a bare grey wall, weeds growing everywhere, completely back watered and just bare. It was completely not what it is now – a bunch of mounted wood thin sharpies for target markers. We all sucked in the beginning because non of us had any guidance. It’s a bit more, professional in a way, than it was 6 years ago.” – Trev Welshinson (Old wall targets, notice the name?)

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Word continues to spread through the streets of Toronto. If you’re just hearing about it now, you know someone who knows about it, and definitely someone who wants to try it.

“We took out an ad once in an alternative sports issue of Vice magazine two years ago, but we’ve grown organically,” said the league administrator and roller derby officiator.

Though the league is at capacity, Samir Acle aka Sa-Miracle can set up a private event for you; between 10-36 people, and about 10-12 weeks in advance.

“We have a great coaching staff who gets a group throwing reasonably well around half an hour to 45 minutes. Our event structure is a 3 hour time window, and we start a little tournament for them, but the level of competition in one of those events is rather different from league play.”

You’re well on your way to competition once you establish the speed and distance it takes for your axe to achieve one full rotation, it’s all about practice.

You may be preparing for an impending zombie apocalypse, you may just want competition, you may just even (wait for it) want to take the edge off. What’s certain is that word is spreading, and a lot of people want to experience the satisfaction that comes from sinking your first bit into a target.

B.A.T.L is on the cutting edge of a growing trend, and the proof Toronto had it first, is in its own backyard.

They may wield axes, but they're a pretty friendly bunch.
They may like point objects, but they’re really a pretty friendly bunch.