Nearly 100 teams are set to walk through the gates at Softball City for the Canada Cup starting Friday (July 13), as tournament organizers and fastpitch enthusiasts bask in the glow provided by the sport’s renewed Olympic participation.
In total, 92 teams will take part in the 10-day tournament, including nine teams in the women’s international division. Games will also be played at Cloverdale Athletic Park and South Surrey’s Sunnyside Park.
Since women’s softball was reinstated as an Olympic sport last August, there has been “all kinds of new interest” in both the Canada Cup and the sport as a whole, according to Canada Cup tournament chair Greg Timm.
“The lifeblood of a sport at this level is Olympic team funding. For Canada, and every other country, that was much reduced during the period of time softball was out (as an Olympic sport),” he said.
Among the nine squads in the international group, two will be from Canada – the women’s national team, plus a development squad. Other countries sending national teams include New Zealand, South Korea, China and the Czech Republic. The group will be rounded out by the White Rock Renegades’ senior women’s team, top U.S. club team Triple Crown – based out of Colorado – as well as Edmonton’s Calahoo Erins, which, like the Renegades, is one of Canada’s top programs.
While some of the Canada Cup’s usual suspects – Japan and Australia, among others – won’t be making the trip this year, Timm said it has more to do with scheduling issues than anything else. The women’s world championships, which Surrey hosted in 2016, are to be held in Japan just two weeks after the conclusion of the South Surrey tournament, so some teams have chosen to limit travel in preparation in advance of that tournament.
As well, at the same time, there is a competing tournament in Europe – “We were able to draw the Czech Republic out of that,” Timm said – as well as the Central American Games, which have kept teams from making the trip north.
“It’s a busy year,” Timm said.
He predicted that in future years, renewed funding in the sport would result in many international teams making trips to compete at the Canada Cup.
“There are bigger days ahead for us,” he said.
Local fans will still get the opportunity to cheer for Canada’s national team, which this summer will feature a familiar face – former White Rock Renegade pitcher Danielle Lawrie-Locke.
Lawrie-Locke, who now lives in the Seattle area, came out of retirement this year to return to the national team fold, with world championships – and in 2020, the Olympics – on the calendar.
“We’re excited to see her return for the first time in probably eight years,” Timm said. “I know she’s been training extremely hard to prepare.”
With world championships coming on the heels of the South Surrey event, Timm expects Canada to be at the top of their game.
“They’ll come in as buffed up as they can be,” he said.
“With the sport back (in the Olympics), these players are pretty high profile now – there’s a lot of eyeballs on them.
“Canada is currently ranked third in the world, and you name me a team sport, other than hockey, where Canada is ranked so high. We’re really excited to see them here.”
For more on the Canada Cup, visit canadacup.com.