The summer of softball is set to begin in South Surrey.
The Canada Cup – the first of two fastpitch events set for the city over the next two months – will hit the field Friday, with youth and international women’s teams set to take part, Canada’s national team among them.
As in previous years – the Canada Cup has been a fixture on the July sports calendar since 1993 – the event will include Futures (under 18) and Showcase (under 16) divisions, with teams taking part from not just across Canada and the United States, but even further afield – including Great Britain this year.
Last year, the host White Rock Renegades ’99 took top spot in the Futures tournament with a win over Chinese-Taipei.
The countdown is on to the 25th Canada Cup International Softball Championship! Taking place July 5th – July 14, 2019 at Softball City. Purchase your event tickets NOW! E-mail the Canada Cup Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 604.536.9287 (Children 5 & under are free) pic.twitter.com/mlxmY6tOYW
— Canada Cup (@CanadaCup19) June 17, 2019
A women’s international division will again be among the highlights of the event, though this year will be without a few Canada Cup mainstays, such as Japan and Australia, due to teams having other commitments worldwide as they all vie for one of four remaining spots in the 2020 Summer Olympics.
“Some teams have chosen to stick a bit closer to home as they prepare (for qualifiers),” said Greg Timm, the chairperson of both events.
However, a handful of North and South American teams that would normally take part in the Canada Cup – Mexico and the Dominican Republic, among others – will be in Surrey in August, when Softball City hosts the 2019 Americas Olympic qualifier event, which will send two teams into the Olympics.
The crowd favourite Canadian national team will be at both the Canada Cup and the qualifier, and will be among the top contenders to win both tournaments.
Other teams set to play in the women’s division include national teams from Chinese-Taipei, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Republic of Korea and Great Britain, as well as Canada’s junior national team. One Canadian club team, Alberta’s Calahoo Erins, will also compete, as will U.S.-based club teams Scrapyard International (Texas), Team Mizuno Impulse (Texas) and Triple Crown Colorado.
Last year, Canada defeated Triple Crown in the championship game.
Despite some international teams taking a pass this year – and two more, China and Philippines, pulling out late due to international, governmental disputes that Timm said “go far beyond softball” – this year’s event will still be the biggest in its history.
Between the three divisions, the tournament will feature 105 teams, more than 1,300 youth players and 450 games will be played. More than 450 volunteers are also involved in the event, Timm said.
As is always the case, Canada’s national team will be the biggest draw.
“We get great support for our Canadian team. People want to come out and wave the Canadian flag,” said Timm.
This spring, the Canadian team – which features a bevy of players with local connections, including Cloverdale’s Holly Speers and former White Rock Renegade pitchers Sara Groenewegen and Danielle Lawrie-Locke – has been preparing for its busy summer schedule by playing in the U.S.-based National Pro Fastpitch league.
Branded as the Canadian Wild, the team has been based out of Marion, Ill.
“They’re doing very well right now – our team is just fantastic,” Timm told Peace Arch News last month.
Born and raised in White Rock, Groenewegen was first called up to the senior national team during her Grade 12 year in high school and has been a key part of the squad ever since.
She is more than familiar with the fields at Softball City and knows that playing in a large tournament at home is something to not take for granted.
“It’s a special feeling returning to Softball City, representing your country. I am fortunate in being able to enjoy this kind of experience,” said Groenewegen.
“It’s been quite the journey and we’ve experienced so much excitement and disappointment, but I think in the end it’s only made us stronger and more determined heading into Canada Cup.”
The Olympic qualifying tournament, meanwhile, is set for Aug. 25-Sept. 1. It will feature eight teams in two divisions. The official draw for that tournament was announced by the World Baseball Softball Confederation in late April.
This year’s back-to-back tournaments will make for the biggest, most high-profile summer of fastpitch on the Semiahmoo Peninsula since 2016 when the City of Surrey – led again by Timm and his group of organizers and volunteers – hosted the Women’s World Championships, which saw a record 31 teams compete at Softball City.
The United States won that tournament, and successfully defended their title last summer in Japan, as well. Canada finished third in both 2016 and ’18.