11.4 C
Thursday, September 21, 2023
HomeCanadaCBC Sports: Team Canada Enjoys a Field of Dreams at Little League...

CBC Sports: Team Canada Enjoys a Field of Dreams at Little League Softball World Series


Team Canada was eliminated from the Little League Softball World Series on Tuesday, but rest assured that the players’ dreams are alive and well.

A team from St. Albert, Alta., represented Canada at the international tournament in Greenville, NC, having first won the provincial and national playdowns to earn that honor.

The 12- and 13-year-old girls’ team was eliminated after losing 11-9 to Latin America and 12-9 to New England. However, the trip south showed them what was possible through softball.

“I think they definitely dream,” said team principal Heather Danilak, a 40-year-old woman from Edmonton. “They definitely see that softball can take them places and it can allow them to travel and softball can allow them to meet a lot of people throughout their life.”

To that end, 60 players from Athletes Unlimited (AU), the professional women’s softball circuit, made it to the World Series earlier this week and met their younger counterparts on Tuesday. The AU players will compete against the Little Leaguers on Wednesday at Stallings Stadium.

Among those players is Toronto’s Victoria Hayward, who made her Team Canada debut at age 16 and won Olympic bronze at Tokyo 2020.

“I didn’t have access to anybody like that when I was younger and I didn’t even have the dreams. I really didn’t even know what the possibilities were,” Hayward told CBC Sports. “I wish I had the opportunity to meet someone who could achieve things that I wanted to achieve when I was young.”

olympic question

Hayward, who spoke to Team Canada before their loss to New England, said his message was to enjoy the experience and the pressure that comes with it.

“These are going to be memories that you will have for the rest of your life coming here. And it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, so the more you can enjoy it and just be there, have fun, compete, I think there will be no regrets at the end of that experience,” he said.

Hayward, 31, has competed in AU since its inception in 2020. However, Tokyo 2020 was her only Olympic experience after softball was left off the schedule for 13 years. Softball will also not be contested at Paris 2024, although it could return for Los Angeles 2028.

Danilak, who competed in softball at the Canada Games and whose daughter Allie is on her team, said the Olympics are a worthy goal.

“I definitely see some of them have Olympic dreams in terms of their focus, their intent and their determination on the field and in practice. They have the qualities to be little mini-Olympians right now,” he said.

Hayward pointed to AU’s success, as well as the Women’s College World Series, as part of her bid to return softball to the Olympics in five years.

“I think the growth is exponential every year,” he said. “It’s diverse enough that it’s something I think I should always be in, but definitely in Los Angeles as the center of softball in Southern California.”

Allie Danilak attempts a bunt during Canada’s loss to Latin America. (Submitted by Heather Danilak)

‘Someone in this league plays like you’

Meanwhile, AU and college softball are a viable alternative for Little League players to dream of.

“I think as much as it’s filling the void, it’s also allowing players to compete at the highest level all the time. I think part of an Olympic experience is making sure you’re ready for that Olympic competition when it comes,” he said. Hayward, whose first season at AU came before Tokyo 2020.

The St. Albert team won their provincial playdown, beating Lethbridge and Calgary, on July 24. He then flew to Victoria, where he survived BC and an especially tough Quebec team to win the national championship. Three days later, thanks to flight delays, Danilak said it took him nearly 24 hours to get to North Carolina, including a layover in Toronto and a bus ride from Raleigh, NC.

But even though they lost, on Wednesday the Little Leaguers will be able to see their professional dream on display by their heroes on the same field they just played on, something that may well be worth the whirlwind ride.

“It gives them another dream in their pocket,” Danilak said. “Another dream for them to achieve and see that women can also be professionals in track and field and that they have people to look up to on a similar path if they choose to do so.”

Hayward said he hopes their younger counterparts appreciate the diversity of the professional game, both in terms of playing style and athletes on the field.

“No matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, no matter how you play, there’s someone in this league who plays like you and someone you can aspire to be.”

The author of what'snew2day.com is dedicated to keeping you up-to-date on the latest news and information.

Latest stories