Neela Chanderdat, Stephanie Ellis, Tess Forman, and Mia Valcke weren’t even born yet when Canada, the USA and Mexico instituted the NAFTA agreement 20 years ago.
Its purpose may have been a tad more slanted to staying competitive in the global marketplace than to opening doors for female baseball players, but the bottom line is that four Ontario girls have just been invited to join the USA team that is headed to Mexico for the first International Women’s Baseball ‘Mayan Princess Cup.’
Justine Siegal, founder and head coach of the “Baseball For All” program based out of New York, has assembled an American 12-U team to compete against five Mexican teams in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico from Feb. 8-11, and the four Canucks--who all play for boys baseball teams in their respective home towns--were recently selected to fill out Siegal’s roster.
Siegal coached Forman and Valcke last summer in Cooperstown, N.Y. where their most notable victory was against the Riverside Royals ‘AAA’ Peewee boys team. Siegal had first seen Valcke play in Japan the year before at the 2011 World Children’s Baseball Fair.
“Obviously, they’re doing something right in Ontario to produce girls of this calibre, and I don’t mean just their baseball ability, but the way they carry themselves and mix with their teammates.
All four will be welcome additions to our team, and let’s hope we play well enough to bring home the Mayan Princess Cup,” said Siegal, who doubles as the chair of the International Baseball Federation’s (IBAF) commission for women’s baseball.
The championship’s Facebook page is: http://www.facebook.com/CopaPrincesaMayaBeisbolFemenil.
London’s Neela Chanderdat is by far the youngest player on the team, but she’s not lacking any firepower. The eight-year-old second baseman made her first Rookieball team at the age of five in the London District Baseball Association (LDBA), and played this past summer with Dorchester Diamondbacks Majors Rookie boys rep team, where she was one of the top hitters at the OBA Championship.
In both 2010 and 2011, she played as an under-ager with the Southwest London Scorpions Major Rookie team. Neela is also competitively involved with the London 86’ers basketball team, as well as figure skating.
Brantford’s Stephanie Ellis has been playing rep baseball since she was five years old. The 12-year-old shortstop, who also pitches and plays first base, currently plays with the Brantford Minor Baseball Association (BMBA) rep Peewees in Tier 1 of the Inter-County Baseball Association (ICBA) League.
She is the only female at her age level in the loop that includes teams from Kitchener, Woodstock, Guelph, London, Cambridge, Hamilton and Stratford. Stephanie was named Team MVP in 2010, and also plays boys competitive hockey.
Ottawa’s Tess Forman, a pitcher who plays first and third base as well, also began playing baseball at the age of five. In the summer of 2011, her passion for baseball bloomed when she made the Pinecrest Little League Minor ‘A’ boys summer competitive team.
In 2012, she played on the same Tigers team, along with two other females, that was coached by Hannah Martensen, an alumni of the ‘Baseball for All’ program run by Justine Siegal.
It was Martensen who showed Tess that it really was possible for girls to continue playing at higher levels, and she recommended Tess for the 2012 Sparks team that Siegal entered into the Cooperstown tournament.
St. Marys’ Mia Valcke has played baseball since she was five. The Regina, Saskatchewan-born shortstop, who also pitches and plays first base, won the 2010 Canadian championship in the Aquafina National Hit, Run & Throw competition hosted at the Rogers Centre, and was presented the award by Ricky Romero.
Valcke played for the St. Marys Minor Ball (SMBA) boys Peewee team in 2012 coached by Derek Boonstra, Mike Sangster and Dan Douglas. She also made the Western Ontario Baseball Association (WOBA) Peewee Bulls team, who played in three ‘AAA’ tournaments.
Mia also plays competitive hockey (Norampac Peewee ‘A’), basketball and volleyball.