AGUASCALIENTES, Mexico – As Canada’s Women’s National team heads into the competitive round of play at the COPABE Women’s Baseball World Cup qualifier, it will utilize a roster with a fresh look and a number of new faces to take on any challenges that lay ahead.
Along with the eight players who will participate in international competition with the national squad for the first time at the event in Aguascalientes, Mexico – and an average team age of 20 – former big-league hurler and previously the pitching coach for the women’s team, Aaron Myette will lead the charge as he enters his first tournament as manager. After one exhibition matchup against Team USA and three days together as a team, he couldn’t be more excited for what the future holds.
“I’m super pleased and very encouraged,” Myette said. “Given the coaching staff changes, some of our coaches don’t arrive until Sunday, and the assistant staff isn’t here yet, none of the players are worried about it. They’re out there playing, having fun, and that’s exactly what I want them to do. When they’re free mentally, they’re going to perform physically.
“The young ones – I attribute a lot of this to the older girls – they’re comfortable, they feel part of the team, there’s no separation between veterans and rookies. I’m sure the young ones are experiencing some nerves, but they’re not showing it…I haven’t seen this team’s ceiling yet, and I fully believe this team is capable of beating anybody in the world.”
Myette will be accompanied by Ashley Stephenson, who is stepping into a coaching role after retiring in March as the program’s most decorated player since its inception in 2004. Stephenson, a former infielder, is embracing her new role as the squad’s third-base coach in Mexico.
“We’re extremely young, but they’re so talented,” Stephenson said. “That’s what I’m most excited about. It’s our job to teach them the game and how to win. Before, we had leaders on the field who knew the game and were almost player/coaches. We don’t have that now. It’s our job to really make sure we’re doing a good job of teaching them that and giving them the opportunity to do that.
“I agree, the ceiling is really high, looking at the age of these girls and their commitment and their effort. They’re really looking forward to getting better and they’re so excited to be here and willing to learn. The ceiling is extremely high but there’s also a huge onus on us to get them there.”
Myette and Stephenson have embraced their roles on the staff, awaiting former manager Andre Lachance’s arrival to Mexico on Sunday to assist as the first-base coach in this transition year, and are happy with what they’ve seen from both the team and each other.
“We’ve had one exhibition game, and it’s been a learning experience and a challenge especially being shortstaffed, but we’re up to the challenge,” Myette said. “I’ve been super impressed with how Ashley has taken control at third base, working with the defence, working with girls on the bench – there are so many roles she’s taking on and she’s doing amazing. I expected that coming in, and we both knew it would be a challenge, but I have 100 percent confidence in her and she’s proving me right already.”
Added Stephenson: “I know we’re understaffed, and I actually think that’s been advantageous to us because not only is it a huge learning experience but it also doesn’t give me a chance to look back and wonder. I’m trying to focus so hard on things that need done because nobody else is here to do that. I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason and this has happened because we needed it to happen. It was a good experience for Aaron, it’s for sure a good learning experience for me.”
The competition is set to begin on Sunday, with Team Canada taking on the squad from the Dominican Republic to get tournament play underway, with first pitch set for 9:00 a.m. CT in Mexico. Fruitvale, BC’s Alli Schroder will head to the mound to get things going for Team Canada.
“Our biggest challenge is continuing to grow as a newer group,” Myette said. “We have 10 different players from last year’s [World Cup bronze-medal-winning] team, fewer coaches, coaches in new roles, and the challenge for us is to not only adapt to those changes, but to continue to perform, excel and get better throughout the tournament with those changes. But in saying that’s our biggest hurdle, I don’t think it’s a big challenge. We’re sitting in a good spot.”
The Canadians will play one game a day, following up the first contest with matchups against Nicaragua, Cuba, USA, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and finally the host Mexico before the medal games are played on Sunday, August 25 to wrap up the event.
2019 Women’s National Team roster
2019 COPABE World Cup qualifier schedule
You can also find all the latest information on our Women’s National Team Twitter account: @BaseballCANWNT