ST. PETER’S: Local baseball player Ellie MacAulay got a taste of big league action last month as she learned what it’s like to pitch at a Major League Baseball field.
“One of the biggest highlights for me was getting to play at Globe Life Park,” she told The Reporter, when speaking of her visit to Texas and participation in the MLB GRIT Invitational.
“Only major leaguers play on that field, and I never thought I’d get to play somewhere like that.”
The MLB GRIT Invitational saw a total of 64 female baseball players visit Globe Life Park, the home of the Texas Rangers. The inaugural event is high school invitational designed specifically for women to take part in a premier development experience while playing in a major league park. Major League Baseball and USA Baseball co-hosted the event.
MacAulay was one of seven Canadian players invited. She was recruited for the event while attending Baseball Canada’s Women’s National Development Camp in Cuba.
“We landed on the first day, got to the hotel, and right after that we had practices,” she said. “It was definitely a long day. We were divided into four teams, and we got to play against each other.
“As we were playing the games, we’d be evaluated. Most days, we’d have a classroom type session where coaches would tell us what it’s like to play at the college level. I learned a lot that I didn’t know before, especially the mental parts of the game.”
Warming up in the Rangers’ bullpen was an experience like no other, MacAulay said, and running in from centre field (her other position, when not pitching) to throw some smoke from the pitcher’s mound was unforgettable.
“That was one of the coolest experiences I ever had,” MacAulay said.
“Seeing the skill level in two countries and just meeting these girls who go through the same struggles as I do puts any negatives in perspective,” she said.
“There were motivational speakers there. One girl talked about being on a college team that met in the gym at 6 a.m. for practice. She’d be there at 5 a.m. and she’d stay an hour later than the rest.
“It showed you have to work extra, extra hard.”
The level of coaching was also world class. Two coaches on MacAulay’s team were members of the Women’s US National Team, and two players on that same team competed for Team Canada. The players and coaches had actually played against each other last season.
MacAulay was interviewed by a Fox News affiliate in Texas, and the media attention surrounding the event was no small thing. Considering MacAulay’s accomplishments, female baseball couldn’t find a better spokesperson than the Richmond County native.
The St. Peter’s pitcher is one of the area’s most successful young athletes. Last year alone, she played national-level ball for three different squads: the silver medal winning national prospects team; the silver medal winning Nova Scotia U16; and the bronze medal winning Nova Scotia U21.
Playing development-level ball against boys wasn’t always the easiest thing for her. Once she graduated from Mosquito to Pee Wee level, she has found herself dealing with people who weren’t welcoming of girls on the field.
Helping young female players achieve an even playing field was one of the aims of the GRIT clinic. However, given her strength of character, MacAulay rarely let critics change her mind on her right to play.
“[Hearing negative comments] got me thinking, should I be playing? Should I turn to softball?” she said. “Then I realized, why would I quit just because a guy told me I shouldn’t be playing? I see that as a reason to keep going.”
MacAulay has been well supported by her teammates and home community. The people of St. Peter’s are in her corner, she said, noting that Marvin MacLean of Kin-Excel Fitness Centre and the staff at East Richmond Education Centre have always helped in giving her a place to train.
“St. Peter’s is so supportive of me,” she said. “They literally do everything they can to keep me going and support me.”
MacAulay is now getting ready for another summer of baseball.