Raine Mingo called her recent trip to Surrey, B.C., the best one she’s ever been on.

If you got to do what she did, you wouldn’t disagree with her.

Mingo was one of 11 players with the Yellowknife Wolverines U14 girls program that got the chance to travel to Surrey for a nearly week-long training camp of sorts from July 9 to 12, which included some time with the Canadian women’s national softball team as they were there for the Canada Cup international tournament.

“It was really fun and amazing,” said Mingo. “The coolest part of it was the game we had against the team from Cloverdale.”

Part of the trip involved an exhibition game versus the Cloverdale Fury ’08 team and the Wolverines managed to squeak out an 18-17 win when all was said and done.

The Yellowknife Wolverines U14 girls team are all smiles after getting the chance to practice with members of the Canadian national women’s softball team in Surrey, B.C., earlier this month. They are, in front, Raine Mingo; second row from left, Mackenzie Chiasson, Giselle Penney, Ellie Loutit, Ella Skauge and Keira Coakwell; third row from left, Kali Skauge, Amber Lennie-Ipana, Ellie Lucas, Adrianna Hendrick and Brooklyn Helyar; back row from left, Joey Lye, Jennifer Salling, Jennifer Gilbert and Victoria Hayward, all from the Canadian national team.
photo courtesy of Heather Coakwell

Ella Skauge, another one of the Wolverines who made the trip to Surrey, said it was an exciting game and she even got in some action on the rubber, nearly striking out the side.

“I got two strikeouts,” she said. “That’s hard to do.”

Mingo said both teams seemed to be evenly-matched.

“They were slightly better at pitching but we were pretty close in everything else,” she said. “They were all really nice.”

The big thrill for both young ladies was getting the chance to meet the national women’s team. That meeting preceded a training session with the women’s squad, where the Wolverines got the chance to learn from the best in the country.

“They were all super cool to be around,” said Skauge. “We got to talk with the players and practise hitting with them and then watch them do batting practice.”

Mingo said the one thing she was hoping to work on was her hitting.

“I lean forward too much when I bat and I have to learn to not let go of the bat halfway through my swing,” she said.

The Wolverines then got the chance to see it all in motion during actual tournament games which Skauge said was interesting to watch.

“It’s so much faster than what I’ve ever seen,” she said. “You see all of the different teams and watching how good they were was awesome.”

The girls also bumped into one of the teams from South Korea, Skauge added, but the conversation didn’t go so well.

“They didn’t speak a lot of English and we didn’t speak Korean but we smiled a lot,” she said.

Jennifer Lukas was one of the coaches who made the trip and she said in terms of lighting a fire and inspiring the girls, the trip was a success.

“We brought 11 girls who were mildly interested in the sport and brought home 11 girls who want to be ball players,” she said. “The girls met Team Canada, watched them take batting practice, watched them play several Canada Cup games, trained in a top-notch facility, and played – and won – an exhibition friendly game against a local team.”

The trip came about after Lukas had a chat with Jim Ullock, a softball instructor from B.C. who was in Yellowknife earlier this year to host a pitching clinic.

“I told him about our development program and how we were going to Alberta to play games and he told me he could do much better than that,” said Lukas. “He helped set things up for us in Surrey, we got to train at his facility and he got us tickets to watch Canada play.”

Among all of the things the team learned, Lukas said the one thing she wanted them to learn was cheering, which is a big part of the women’s game.

It didn’t start out as well as she would have hoped, however.

“When I went to home plate for the conference before we played the Fury, I asked the team to give their best cheers because our girls had never done them before,” she said. “As soon as we took the field, they launched into a massive cheer and it threw the girls right off. Raine was pitching in the first inning and she actually asked if they could stop because it was off-putting for her.”

After the game, Lukas had the girls go and learn a couple of cheers from the Fury squad with the hopes of putting into practice down the road.

“I’m hoping we get to do this every year,” said Lukas. “Maybe not the Canada Cup but more opportunities for the girls because you learn so much from each other. Softball is such a tight-knit community and we’re all playing in the same box but it’s great to go and see what other teams are doing.”

James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...