The California A’s are the Women’s Elite champions, running the table and capping their ten-day marathon by defeating Team Great Britain, 3-2, in Sunday’s gold medal game.
11 wins, 83 runs for, three runs against, and the A’s solidified themselves as the team to beat at this year’s Scotiabank Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship.
The A’s are the product of owner/manager Kathy Miller, who funds the entire team in Newport Beach, and their season is short, to say the least. The A’s play only one tournament a year, and that’s Softball City’s Canadian Open.
“My goal (every year) is to come up to Canada, because I came up here in ’93 and was so impressed with your group and your hospitality and the professionalism of this tournament,” she said.
Miller said she has made lifelong friends through her years in this tournament and, while winning is always the goal, it’s as much about what happens around the field as it is what happens on it.
Last Monday, the A’s led a skills clinic for youngsters from Surrey and the surrounding area. They’ve also mixed dinner parties with Team Peru and others, and Miller said they’ve been taken aback by the “stellar” atmosphere of the Canadian Open.
“We were blessed to do your clinic for your Canadian Girls on Monday,” she said. “(Our) girls got more out of it than the little girls did.”
The A’s are clearly successful, and their program has launched the careers of many stars, including current Team USA pitcher Keilani Ricketts. At this year’s Open, the A’s had three Elite tournament All-Stars.
However, Miller says her goal is to recruit not just exceptional players, but exceptional women, as well.
“There are no egos on my team,” she said from Diamond 2 at Softball City. “It’s all about helping out while we’re here and being part of a unit. We come together once a year.”
On top of Miller’s funding of the entire team, she also raises money for athletes or those in her community who have succumb to life-threatening illnesses, and athletes who have been injured, such as one girl who became a paraplegic after a snowboard accident.
One of the California A’s current headliners is right fielder Jena Rubio, who led the Elite division in round robin batting average, hitting .600 through seven games. The Cal State Fullerton sophomore is also listed at 5’1″ and she’s noticeable from the stands simply by her energy on the base paths and in the field.
“Rubio is phenomenal,” said Miller. “She’s our smallest player, but with the biggest heart. She’s all guts.
“She’s everything you’d want. If you’d seen her in the clinic, you’d have been blown away. The little girls saw hope, they know you don’t have to be a big girl to play softball.”
– story by Kolby Solinsky