By Adam Morissette
OTTAWA - Warm weather while playing your favourite sport in a country where the game is practically a religion, and in the month of February! That will be the reality for 25 lucky female baseball players next week when the annual Girls Baseball Development Camp gets underway in Havana, Cuba.
For the ninth consecutive year, Women’s National Team manager André Lachance is bringing a talented group of young players to the baseball hotbed for a week of baseball and a cultural experience that is equally important as the on field component.
“I said it every year, but a key to this trip being so successful is the overall experience that the participants receive,” he said. “On the baseball field, athletes are dealing with different weather and playing outdoors for the first time in months. Off the field, it’s an opportunity to travel to a new country and experience a different culture which is a first for many.”
Noémie Lapointe (Laval, Que.) is returning to Cuba after attending last year’s camp and recalls realizing how much the sport of baseball means to the Cuban people and their culture.
“I quickly understood that the passion and the need to play baseball isn’t just located in one place or one heart,” she said. “In fact, I love how everyone there seems so devoted to that sport. It brings out an energy that I love to be around.”
Lapointe used last year’s camp in Cuba and a strong performance at the Women’s Invitational in Windsor later in the year to earn an invite to the Canada-USA Development Program in Washington, DC where she got her first taste of the Women’s National Team program.
She’s excited for the 2018 season, a World Cup year for the National Team, and wants to use the upcoming experience in Cuba to help reach her goals.
“My number one goal (for 2018) is to make Team Canada and participate in the World Cup,” explained Lapointe. “I’m using the trip to Cuba to see where my progress is at right now and to see what I still need to work on in order to meet my goals.”
A teammate with Lapointe during the Canada-USA Development Program last summer, Vancouver’s Emma March will be heading to Cuba for the first time and is excited about the prospect of playing baseball in a foreign country.
“Hopefully this trip to Cuba will not only give me a great opportunity to compete against strong Cuban players but also give me more practice for the upcoming season,” said March. “I believe that competing against other girls around the world will make me stronger and more prepared to face other girls in Canada.”
Like Lapointe, March got her feet wet with the National Team program in 2017 and has her sights set on taking the next step with the program this year.
“My goal for the 2018 season is to make it onto the Women’s National Team. I’d love to have the opportunity to play with them (at the World Cup) in Florida and I believe that hard work, practice and this Cuba camp will help me achieve my goal.”
While the baseball aspect is really important for March, her hope is to soak in as much about the Cuban baseball culture as she can while also form new relationships with her Cuban counterparts.
“Seeing as it is my first time traveling to Cuba to participate in this camp I hope to get a new perspective of what baseball means to other girls around the world and the difference in the lives of girls who enjoy playing baseball in Cuba and in Canada,” added March. “I hope to meet some Cuban players to understand what it’s like playing in Cuba and the struggles they may face being a girl.
"I hope to come out of the trip with new insight into the meaning of girls baseball, I’d love to make new friends and come home more grateful for the life I have in Canada, how lucky I am for having many opportunities to play the sport I love and never take them for granted.”
It will be a busy schedule for the 25 athletes, coaches and support staff attending the camp with daily games, practices and off field activities planned.
Baseball Canada will be providing updates throughout the week via our Twitter account: twitter.com/baseballcanada.
Cuba Development Camp Roster
Sena Catterall, Québec
Kassie Orr, British Columbia
Alexis Galloway, Alberta
Elizabeth Gilder, British Columbia
Danielle Smith, Newfoundland
Isabella Bortolotto, British Columbia
Celia Leaf, British Columbia
Alexane Fournier, Québec
Sophy Gagné, Québec
Olivia Sheldon, Manitoba
Sarah Moir, Manitoba
Ellie MacAulay, Nova Scotia
Miya Waldron, Ontario
Caitlin Tomotsugu, Ontario
Arianne Lévesque, Québec
Bridget Kelly, Québec
Lily Susin, Ontario
Tara Taylor, Ontario
Emma March, British Columbia
Lochlahn March, Ontario
Allison Schroder, British Columbia
Noémie Lapointe, Québec
Erica Ahad, Québec
Meghan Jasmin, Québec
Maylee Matchett, Ontario
André Lachance, Québec
Aaron Myette, British Columbia
Kate Psota, Ontario
Wayne Parro, Ontario
Charles St-Laurent, Québec
Chloé Gagnon, Québec