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Grand Falls-Windsor baseball player to suit up with Chicago Pioneers

Grand Falls-Windsor’s Holly Russell will suit up with the Chicago Pioneers in August for the 2018 Baseball For All National 13U Championships in Rockford, Illinois.
Grand Falls-Windsor’s Holly Russell will suit up with the Chicago Pioneers in August for the 2018 Baseball For All National 13U Championships in Rockford, Illinois. - Submitted

A league of her own

GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL – One of Holly Russell’s favourite movies is “A League of Their Own,” a film that tells the fictional account of the all-female baseball league that springs up in the Midwestern United States during the Second World War.

Holly’s mother, Heather Russell, even ordered her Halloween costume, a Rockford Peach baseball uniform (like a team in the movie) for her.

Little did they know, a few short months later, Holly would be heading to Rockford to play in an all-female tournament.

Holly will be playing with the Chicago Pioneers 13U female baseball team for the 2018 Baseball For All National 13U Championships in Illinois — a major tournament that is on the radar for scouts looking for elite players — in August.

“I’m pretty excited,” Holly said. “It’s an honour to be asked to play on such a big stage. I never thought I would have the opportunity to play in such a big tournament.”

The Pioneers, the brainchild of Greg and Mary Jo Stegeman, started in 2006, and facilitates opportunities for girls to train and play in an all-female setting, and develop elite female players.

Holly told the Advertiser this opportunity came about when provincial 16U Female baseball coach Bob Morgan of St. John’s put the Pioneers in touch with her mother.

“Morgan has been doing some recruiting for the Pioneers since his daughter played with the Pioneers senior female team a few years ago,” Heather said. “He recruits players from Newfoundland that he feels should be invited to play at that level.”

Holly isn’t the only Newfoundlander heading to play with the team. There are four girls from Corner Brook who play with the Central West Ravens team with Holly, and two girls from St. John’s were chosen as well. The remainder of the team are from the United States, Holly said.

They will leave July 30 for Chicago where they will practice for a few days before heading to Rockford for the tournament Aug. 2-5.

Over 250 girls from around the world are expected to participate in the tournament - the only national female baseball tournament held annually in the United States — in 11U, 13U, 14U and 18U divisions.

Meeting some of these girls and making friends is one of the takeaways Holly is looking forward to.

“I’m hoping to gain more baseball knowledge and friendships,” Holly said. “I’ve met most of my friends through baseball, I have great friends that play on other teams in Newfoundland and Labrador that I’ve met through ball.

“I’m also looking forward to playing on the world stage of girls’ baseball and absorbing as much as I can. Baseball, for me, is the greatest game in the world.”

This achievement is something she recognizes she didn’t do alone.

“I would like to thank my coaches who push me to be the best player that I can be,” Holly said. “Thank you to my parents and especially my Pop, Bruce Goulding, who started teaching me baseball before I could walk. I hope one day I could be as good a ball player as him.”

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