Canadian Olympic softball player visits Blyth team's practice
BY SCOTT STEPHENSON
It was a balmy evening in early May - on a well-groomed zen garden of an infield, baseline paint still drying, fine and crisp - that the U11 Blyth Gritty's girls softball team welcomed Canadian Olympic softball player, Alison Bradley, to their practice. The kids were in for a treat as Bradley took charge of leading them in an invigorating stretch routine that left them ready to take on any challenge, be it “pop-flies” or even “grounders”.
In a quick, in-the-field interview with The Citizen, Bradley shared her love for the game that she began playing when she was just seven years old. With two older brothers who played baseball, she would often join them in games, honing her skills, playing catch and fueling her passion for the sport. She played minor ball in Cargill and Chepstow before progressing to play on a Provincial Women's Softball Association team in Chepstow, or “PW team” for those who get down in the dugout. Eventually Bradley landed on a team in Kitchener where the competition was increasingly fierce and teams were more plentiful.
Bradley says her favourite memories of playing the game are from when she was the same age as the girls on the Blyth Gritty's team and she waxed nostalgic about playing in the fields with her friends “eons ago”. But Bradley admits nothing could match the thrill of competing in the Olympics in 2004 and 2008, a crowning achievement she considers herself to be "very fortunate" to have experienced. Bradley shared some details of the grueling training regimen required to compete at such a high level, saying that she lived, competed and trained, in the gym and on the field, with teammates from across the country. Bradley confirmed that mental training exercises were just as rigorous, ensuring that she and her teammates were in top form. Her mantra for handling the stress of elite competition is, "pressure is a privilege."
As the sun began to set, at the time of year when the ball diamonds' lights begin to twinkle back to life after a lengthy winter hibernation, Bradley imparted a valuable lesson for the kids to interpret for themselves saying, "How you do anything is how you do everything." She urged the young players to practise the fundamentals of the sport like they were in a real competition, which would help them develop into the best players they could be. She also reminded the scrappy youngsters to, “have fun, learn skills and keep growing.”
Looking out onto Blyth’s own Field of Dreams at this early stage of “spring training”, one can see evidence for themselves that what they say in the film A League of Their Own is true - “There’s no crying in baseball.” Instead, there is a field full of kids, smiling and having fun, at the beginning of a season where anything could happen.