In 2002, the inaugural Women’s Baseball World Cup was held at Telus Field in Edmonton, Alberta. Fast-forward one decade, and the tournament is back in the City of Champions, eight teams strong and buzzing with support for the Canucks.
To the surprise of few, Canada is off to a torrid start, boasting a 5-0 record, sitting ahead of the Americans, Aussies and defending champions, Team Japan. Up to this point, Canada has played in two tight games, coming against Australia in a narrow 5-4 victory, and a wild back-and-forth tilt against the States, which ended in extra innings.
Thus far, Canadians Stephanie Savoie and Katherine Psota have whacked the ball around the park with apparent ease, notching .636 and .625 batting averages, respectively. Edmonton product Nicole Luchanski isn’t too far off, either, hitting a commanding .385. Prior to donning the red and white, Luchanski played for the Edmonton Cardinals, one of Alberta’s premier travel baseball squads. She also attended the St. Francis Xavier Baseball Academy, though that was in the program’s early days. Over the last years, the academy has become one of the largest baseball schools in Western Canada, sending players to colleges across the Canadian and American baseball landscape.
Ron Hayter, a former representative of Edmonton’s City Council, and prominent member of the Edmonton International Baseball Foundation (EIBF), helped string together the successful bid for the current world cup event, adding to a long list of Edmonton-hosted tournaments that includes the World Junior Baseball Championship (the last of which at Telus was dominated by the Korean squad, with a decisive victory over the Americans in the finals). Though Alberta is not widely known for its baseball talent, it is one of Canada’s premier provinces for baseball talent, and continues to flex its muscles through the work of the EIBF.
Though Canada is leading the pack in pool play, Japan, the States and Australia all pose a threat to the home-town nation. Melissa Armstrong, an Oxford-bound student and ace pitcher for Team Canada, helped propel Canada to the victory over Australia, but it was a tight affair that saw several lead changes along the way. (The Wanderer Online recently interviewed Armstrong, and will soon publish the one-on-one in its ongoing coverage of the event.) If Canada is to emerge victorious, it will likely need to dispatch of these squads once again.
Considering the rise of women’s baseball, the international flavour infused into Edmonton, Canada’s predicted success and the adept use of Telus Field, the Women’s Baseball World Cup is a much-needed and timely event for the city. Armstrong is content, as is the Canadian crowd and tournament organizer, Ron Hayter. By the looks of things, this trend will remain intact.