Just over a month ago, Softball City welcomed the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship to South Surrey, BC. What was once known as the “Canada Cup” for many years, the Championship committee worked overtime this year to expand the field of competition to include the Futures (U19) and Selects (U16) as part of the nine day event. Whereas the tournament originally showcased the top women’s softball players from around the world, including one of the most well known softball stars, Jennie Finch, young hopefuls from throughout Western Canada got the opportunity to see local greats, Danielle Lawrie and Melanie Matthews don the red and white uniform to showcase their talents. One of those young hopefuls, Katie Reyes from Burnaby, BC has taken up the opportunity and is running the bases with it.
As a member of the Burnaby Oakeys, Reyes and her teammates competed in the Future Showcase Gold Division, the first and definitely not the last time Canadian softball fans will see the shortstop from Templeton High School participate on softball’s grande stages. However for Katie Reyes, grande stages and spotlights are nothing new, as it was only two years ago that she found herself staring down the fast balls from German pitchers in the Little League World Series. While participating in the LLWS was a feat on its own, considering that only fifteen girls have participated in the hardball championship since 1984, Reyes marked her place in the history books by being the first female to record a game winning hit in a World Series game (a two run single to be exact).
While the atmosphere in South Surrey was not quite that of Williamsport PA, the focus and approach to the game was no different for Reyes and her Oakeys teammates. Arriving at Softball City to meet and greet with Katie prior to the Opening Ceremonies of the Canadian Championship, I found her to be very humble and friendly and while the future of Canadian softball may be within her, one couldn’t see any pressures in her attitude and approach to the game. In only her second year with the team, which captured the Bantam B Provincial Championship last season (a series in which Reyes launched three grand slam home runs, including one in the title clinching game), Reyes is already showing her poise and leadership far beyond her age. Trading the hardball for the softball in 2010, Reyes hardly looks out of place, be it at the bat or in the field as I watched her make some of the more difficult defensive plays look routine.
Towards the end of the round robin schedule for the Canadian Championship, the Thursday morning games encountered the same wet weather that impacted many of the local softball club’s games this season…RAIN! While this put a damper on the on field action, it gave me an opportunity to speak with the Oakeys Coach Quentin about his club and how Reyes fits in. Describing Katie as the same person I met, down to earth and absent of celebrity attitude, Quentin gave the compliment that sets apart only select players from their teammates. Despite her young age and short time playing softball, the bench boss describes Reyes as an extension of coaching staff on the field and in the dugout as she is often a step ahead of what the coaches ask, seeing plays one step ahead and grasping concepts immediately.
When the rain ceased and the field crew cleared the diamond of excess water, the Oakeys took to the field to complete their round robin schedule, giving me a chance to see Reyes in action. As described by the Oakeys coaching staff, Reyes did not disappoint as whether she was at the plate or in the field, a command of the game could be seen and felt. Throughout the course of the Oakeys 4-0 victory over the Abbotsford Outlaws, whether it was a routine grounder or a more complex line drive up the middle that resulted in a diving base tag to get the runner at second, the demeanor on Reyes face never changed as a comfortable smile could be seen at all times.
At the end of their inaugural trip to the Canadian Open Championship, the Oakeys finished their schedule with a respectable 4-5 record over the course of the six days of action. While she will always be known for her historic achievement as part of the Little League World Series, Reyes has bigger goals in mind as she looks to help bring home the gold medal for Canada. Whether it be hardball with the boys, or softball with her Oakeys teammates, the future of diamond belongs to Katie Reyes.