On a hot summery week night in suburban Toronto, young men were warming up just outside the ball diamond fence, playing catch when they were stopped by an interloper and asked a question.

“Do you happen to know the name of this park?” I asked. And for second or two, there was uncomfortable silence.

“It’s Marita something,” the first voice answered.

“I think it’s named for the street it’s on,” said another young man.

“No,” said a third guy in uniform. “It’s Mar-i-tah (pronounced incorrectly) Payne Park, I remember it from our schedule. That’s the name. At least, I think that’s the name.”

And then a second question: “Do any of you know who Marita Payne is?

Not one of them, all of them sports-minded men in their 20s, knew the answer. Either answer. And both are worth knowing about.

Marita Payne ran for Canada all over the world. She was a track star and more than 20 years after retirement still holds the Canadian record for the 200 metres and 400 metres. She won two silver medals at the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984 in relay events. She’s 52 years old now, mother of six, and no woman in the Olympic history of this country, has more won more track and field medals than she did.

That’s who Marita Payne is.

But to the kids in the park, or on the streets, or just about anywhere around Toronto, the name doesn’t resonate.

“And she would rather you not know her, that’s Marita” said Molly Killingbeck, the national team coach, who was part of the 4x400 team that won silver with Payne, Jillian Richardson and Charmaine Crooks in 1984.

“She was very quiet, still is very quiet, and very unassuming. But on the track, she was a fierce competitor and I mean fierce.”

The park in her name, not far from where she grew up just north of the city, is one of Greater Toronto’s best kept secrets. There’s a baseball diamond and games almost every night of the summer and a playground and a bocci court and bike and walking paths and trees everywhere and seemingly the park goes on and on and on.

Not far from there, near Steeles Ave. W. and Dufferin St., is where Marita Payne’s three boys — she also has three girls — began to play meaningful basketball. The kids were good, just like their dad. Way beyond those playing around them in Vaughan. The little one, though, Andrew, he was spectacular.