The Best Female Athletes
The best female athletes from these two nations are competing hard to prove that they have a place on the world stage. A city in the far northwestern part of the province of Ontario played host two weeks ago to some of the most exciting baseball talent in North America. In addition, there was not a single male participant. In place of the Women’s Baseball World Cup qualifier that took place in Venezuela this year, the Canadian and United States women’s national teams played in a five-game Friendship Series in Thunder Bay, Ontario from July 28 to August 1. The series took place between July 28 and August 1. Team USA triumphed against Canada in the series by virtue of their victories in three of the five games.
“It’s something unique that these women are able to do,” says Veronica Alvarez, the manager of operations in the United States. “Anyone who comes in contact with these women becomes infected by the passion, and pretty much falls in love with what they do as a result.”
First Full-Time Female Coach
Alyssa Nakken became the first full-time female coach in Major League Baseball history in 2020. In November of that same year, Kim Ng became the first female general manager when she was hired by the Marlins. Most recently, Rachel Balkovec became the first woman to be a full-time manager of a major-league affiliated team earlier this year. Kelsie Whitmore, who became the first woman to play in the Atlantic League when she joined the Staten Island FerryHawks in April, was the starting pitcher for the United States team that competed in the Thunder Bay Invitational.
These women represent a long line of firsts, and they indicate vital incremental development for one of the oldest boys’ clubs in the history of sports. However, the event also demonstrated that there is another option than the traditional “old boys’ club.” Baseball for women is an official, well-competitive sport that has its own bright future ahead of it. The entirety of this past weekend served as evidence that women can and do compete against one another while playing baseball, and not just softball. In addition to this, they are quite skilled at it.
The World Baseball Softball Confederation
Team Canada and Team USA are two of the most skilled women’s baseball teams in the world, and they currently sit in a tie for first place in the world rankings. The World Baseball Softball Confederation assigns points to winning national teams based on their performance in international competitions in order to compile its rankings of those teams. The gap between second-place Chinese Taipei, third-place Canada, and the fourth-place United States is fewer than one hundred points, despite the fact that Japan, the six-time defending world champion, has pulled away to take first position. The United States of America was knocked off the podium and into fourth place as a result of Canada’s victory in the bronze medal game during the final iteration of the Women’s Baseball World Cup in 2018. However, the United States defeated Canada in a World Cup qualifier in Mexico the following year by a score of 21–4, marking the last time either team competed on an international stage.
Canada Manager Ashley Stephenson
This series was another opportunity for the countries to settle the score, and it was also the first time in three years that the countries competed against each other in a setting that was not an intrasquad battle. It was dubbed a friendly series, and I think from game one, you just knew there was going to be nothing nice about it,” says Canada manager Ashley Stephenson. “I think from game one, you just knew there wasn’t going to be anything pleasant about it.” “Players from both teams treat one another with a great deal of respect, and as a result, many of them are even friends.” However, during those few hours between the lines, there is always good competition, and nobody wants to surrender an inch.
The animosity between the two teams is so deep-seated that it even extends to the coaching staff. Before taking on coaching responsibilities for their respective national teams, both Stephenson and Alvarez had long careers as players for those teams. They faced off against one another as players in the 2015 Pan-Am Games, which marked the first and, to this day, only instance of the inclusion of women’s baseball in a multi-sport international competition. The United States of America won the gold medal game with an 11–2 victory over Canada.
United States Manager Alvarez
Since 2019, Alvarez has served as the manager of the United States. Stephenson, on the other hand, is in her first year as Canada’s manager after taking over for Aaron Myette, a former Major League Baseball pitcher who served as Canada’s skipper for four years but left the team earlier this year for personal reasons. Myette had been Canada’s skipper for the previous two seasons.
The previous two weeks were a whirlwind for both sides, and the final rosters weren’t even announced until four days before the beginning of the series. An open trial was held in Minnesota on July 18, which was the first step in the selection process for the United States. Following that, forty individuals were chosen to participate in the National Team Training Camp roster. They competed against one another for the final 20 spots by playing intrasquad games at the Neiman Sports Complex and at Target Field, the home stadium of the Twins.
Because these ladies come from different parts of the country, these weeks are one of the rare opportunities they have to exercise together as a group. The majority of players have to juggle baseball with full-time jobs or schooling in addition to their baseball duties.
There were a total of 12 veterans on the final roster for the United States team that competed in the Friendship Series, in addition to eight players who were brand new to the programme. Both Malaika Underwood and Anna Kimbrell have been selected for the team for the tenth and eleventh time, respectively. At least six years of professional play separated the last four competitors.
Whitmore is one of these seasoned athletes; in July, she competed for Team USA for the sixth time in her career. Whitmore, who is 24 years old, is a two-way player who divides her time between pitching and playing in the outfield for both the national team and the FerryHawks, an independent team in the Atlantic League (often considered to be on the same level as many Double or Triple A teams).
Right-handed pitcher/infielder Meggie Meidlinger, who has played for the United States national team six times, adds that she “couldn’t think of someone finer to be in that position representing women all throughout the world.” “She is one of the most elite players out there, and she has a fantastic work ethic.” She gives it her best in everything she does. ” It has been amazing to watch her make her ambition come true by competing at the highest level possible.
Whitmore A Professional Contract
As Whitmore is now bound by a professional contract, she was unsure at first about whether or not she would be able to make the trip to Canada for the Friendship Series. She has been playing for the national team ever since her sophomore year of high school, when the FerryHawks gave her permission to do so. Fortunately, their general manager, Gary Perone, manager Edgardo Alfonzo, and pitching coach Nelson Figueroa all gave their blessing for her to do so.
According to Whitmore, “it is simply one of the finest experiences to come here with a bunch of other women that are playing this game.” “I hear their stories, I hear what they’re going through or what they’re dealing with, what they’re accomplishing, and it’s a great feeling to know that there are other women out there trying to do the same things,” she said. “I hear what they’re going through or what they’re dealing with, what they’re accomplishing, and it’s amazing.”
Whitmore started for the United States in the opening game of the Friendship Series, despite the fact that she is most commonly seen on the FerryHawks playing in relief roles. Whitmore pitched 4.2/3 innings and allowed no runs on five hits during the opening win for Team USA, which was a 16–2 victory. She went a perfect three for three at the plate, drove in four runs, and came within one double of completing the cycle.
The squad for the Canadian side was decided and ready to go after the Women’s Invitational Championship that was held at the end of July. In order to compete for the national championship in Stonewall, Manitoba, nine teams from seven different provinces came there to take part in the event. At the end of the competition, the winner was determined.
The Canadian team has had a difficult season as they have been participating for the first time without their captain, Amanda Asay, who passed away in January at the age of 33 after being involved in a skiing accident. Since the year 2005, Asay has been a part of the team. In her tribute, the Canadian players sported patches on their sleeves that bore her nickname, “Ace,” and during practises, they all wore her number 19, which was sewn onto the backs of their jerseys. Before the first game of the series, Asay’s parents came out to the field to observe a moment of silence among the opposing teams.
According to Stephenson, “She was kind of like our North Star that we followed.”
After Canada grabbed a one-run lead in the second game of the series, the United States came back with eight hits and capitalised on four mistakes committed by Canada to score seven consecutive runs and win the game. After falling behind 0–2 in the series, Canada came back the next day and won the match against the United States by a score of 10–8. Julia Konigshofer, who was one of eight first-year players competing for Canada, came out on top.
Over the course of the weekend, the young potential of Team USA was also on display on the pitching mound. The United States of America won the series on the fourth day by sweeping Canada with a score of 7–0. Right-handed pitcher and infielder Jillian Albayati, who is 18 years old and from Anaheim, tossed five innings in which no runs were scored and struck out three batters.
Meidlinger comments, “I really, really enjoy seeing how far all of these younger guys have come and how they’ve grown into their roles.” “It’s been exciting to watch the progression, and it’s been a completely different transition from when I was 18 years old, [my] first year on the squad,” she said.
A replay of the pitching duel that took place in the first game of the series between Whitmore and Alli Schroder of Canada took place in the last game of the series. Schroder, who hails from Fruitvale, British Columbia and throws right-handed, is already considered a club veteran despite only being 20 years old. Since she was 16 years old, she has been a member of Canada’s national team.
Because she was playing with a partially torn MCL, which she had sustained at the nationals the week before, the trainers for Canada did not allow Schroder to bat throughout this year’s series. As a result, she had a more limited role than normal during the tournament. But in the championship game, Schroder pitched all six innings, recording five strikeouts while allowing four runs and leading Canada to an 8–4 victory.
Canadian College Baseball Conference
After joining the men’s baseball team at Vancouver Island University, Schroder made history by being the first woman to pitch in the Canadian College Baseball Conference the previous year. When she’s not on the field, she helps fight forest fires in her native province. Because of this, she has to find creative methods to integrate her training into her busy schedule.
“I work in 14-day shifts, and I get two days off every two weeks.” “When I am shipped up, I know I need to have a baseball and a glove with me,” says Schroder. “I can’t leave home without them.” “Training very much consists of going to locate a fence, going to find a brick wall at a fire camp, and tossing a baseball against it, doing what I can,” said the firefighter.
Both squads were able to draw some encouraging conclusions from their time in Thunder Bay. Although the United States prevailed in the series and outscored Canada 42–21 during the first five games, Canada’s victory in the final game demonstrated that it is still competitive with the United States and that the rivalry will continue for some time. Both nations have set their sights on winning the Women’s Baseball World Cup in 2024, when it is scheduled to take place. A rematch is likely in store for them, as well as a collision with another adversary, the nation that has maintained its position as world champion for many years, Japan.
Multi-Sport International Championship
Beyond the rankings and the world cups, another objective of both Team USA and Team Canada is to increase the amount of attention that is paid to their sport on the worldwide stage. There are twenty countries in which women’s baseball is a popular sport, but since the Pan-Am Games in 2015, there hasn’t been an opportunity to watch it being played in a multi-sport international championship. The inclusion of women’s baseball in the Olympic Games is the ultimate goal of the sport’s supporters. A stage of that significance would demonstrate to the entire world that there is a thriving community of women that exists within what has been believed for such a long time to be a man’s game.
NCAA Baseball Tournament
Athletes such as Whitmore and Schroder, along with a number of members of Team USA who compete in the men’s division of the NCAA baseball tournament, are demonstrating that women are capable of playing this sport, even on equal footing with men. Being the first or the only person in a situation all the time might get exhausting. When a woman plays baseball in a men’s league, she is frequently judged first based on her gender and then as a baseball player. These national programmes provide women with teams of their own, so if they stand out from the crowd, it is because of their talent and not because of the ponytail they wear under their cap.
“It’s fantastic being in a community full of ladies,” adds Whitmore, “especially ballplayers that are female.” “It’s definitely something that makes this game worth playing for, and it’s one of the reasons why.”