Team Canada shortstop Jenn Salling is back with the national squad after spending the last three seasons playing professionally in the U.S.

Shortstop happy to be back in national team fold

After a three-year absence, Jenn Salling is back wearing the Maple Leaf at the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championships.

A group of diehard softball fans in the outfield bleachers at Softball City’s main diamond have a little something extra to cheer about at this year’s Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship – the return of Jenn Salling.

The 28-year-old shortstop from Port Coquitlam – whose “clan” of family and friends, she says, are fixtures in the left-field bleachers each year –  has returned to the Canadian national team this summer after spending the last three years playing in the National Pro Fastpitch League in the U.S.

Though leaving the pro ranks was difficult – Salling spent three seasons with the USSSA Florida Pride in Kissimmee, Fla. before being traded to the Pennsylvania Rebellion – there were plenty of reasons to return to Canada, not the least of which was being able to play in front of her family again.

“I was just kind of ready to move on from the pro league, and obviously we have two big events here in Canada – the Pan-Am Games this summer (in Toronto) and then the world championships here in Surrey next year – so being able to get a chance to play in those events was really important to me,” she said.

“But (playing pro) was a great experience – there is so much talent there, it’s a great league. I think that anyone who ever gets the chance to do it, should definitely try.”

The left-handed hitting Salling, known as something of a defensive whiz in the field, played for the national team from 2006-12, and is one of just four current team members with Olympic experience – second baseman Jen Yee, third baseman Megan Timpf and catcher Kaleigh Rafter are the others who played at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the last time softball was on the Olympic docket.

Her experience is a welcome addition to the team, head coach Mark Smith said, though for her part, Salling said she eased back into a leadership role after her three-year absence.

“It was important for me to realize that I haven’t been here for three years, and there were a lot of new players who I didn’t know, and who didn’t know me,” she said.

“It’s not just about jumping in and saying, ‘OK, here, this is what we’re gonna do.’ That’s not my personality.

“But it’s really good to be back.”

Last year, when Salling decided she wanted to return to the national-team fold, she called Smith to discuss the opportunity, and he, in turn, invited her back. Despite her history, however, she wasn’t gifted a roster spot. She went through the same training camps as everyone else, she said, and it wasn’t until last December that she knew she’d made the squad.

“It’s not just, ‘Oh, you’re back on the team because you’ve been here before.’ You have to work at it, and I had to play well to make him believe in me. You have to convince (the coaches) that you’re going to bust your butt every single day for this team.”

Smith – who said he was “certainly happy” to have fielded a phone call from Salling last year – said once she settled back into the program, the benefits on the field, and off, were noticeable.

“It’s been interesting to watch her, because we have a fairly quiet group here – that’s just the personalities of the girls. There’s some chatter, but there’s not a real dominant presence, and Jenn can be that when she wants to be. She can be loud out there, she can take charge,” he said.

While Smith knows his younger players have learned under Salling – “and are better for it,” he said – he’s also noticed that even the team’s veteran infielders, like Yee and Timpf, are playing with a newfound confidence and assertiveness.

“There’s a difference in someone like (Yee), because she knows she has Jenn to her right again. She’s used to that, it’s familiar. And the same goes for Megan and the others.

“It’s been a positive return, all the way around.”

Just Posted

South Surrey mother didn’t have the intent to kill her daughter: defence

Closing submissions in case of Lisa Batstone underway

North Delta footie league to hold try-it clinics

North Delta Junior Australian Football League to show kids in grades 3 to 7 the basics of the sport

Shorthanded Totems edge Walnut Grove for Top Ten Shootout title

Semiahmoo senior girls team wins Centennial Secondary-hosted basketball tournament

Surrey woman plans to travel after winning $500,000

Frances Jarvos bought her winning ticket at Willowbrook Mall in Langley

Crime in Surrey dropped by four per cent in 2018 from 2017, city’s top cop says

Surrey RCMP OIC sharing the news with council Monday as city transitions to city police force

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

Suspended B.C. legislature officers accused of ‘flagrant overspending’

Personal trips, purchases, alcohol and more laid out in 76-page report by Plecas

Alberta youth charged over theft of $17,000 in snow equipment at B.C. ski resort

Alberta RCMP recovered $17,000 in skis/snowboards believed stolen from Fernie Alpine Resort Saturday

China demands U.S. drop Huawei extradition request with Canada

Hua said China demands that the U.S. withdraw the arrest warrant against Meng Wanzhou

Giant ice disk equipped with webcam after surviving storm

Westbrook official Tina Radel says the livestream was requested by Brown University

Ousted B.C. legislature officials say report released to further blacken their reputations

James and Lenz say release was ‘Contrary to all principles of fairness and decent treatment’

B.C. animators land Oscar nominations

‘Animal Behaviour’ by Vancouver’s David Fine and Alison Snowden among several Canadians on the short list

B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

Auto shop apologizes after B.C. employees disrespect memorial convoy

Mr. Lube staff members suspended after incident Sunday in Nanaimo

Most Read