The Chicago Pioneers girls' baseball team had a secret weapon up its sleeve when they won a high-profile baseball tournament in Illinois earlier this month: seven players from Newfoundland.
Three girls from Corner Brook, two from St. John's and one apiece from Cow Head and Grand Falls-Windsor made the trip to Rockford, Ill., — the home of the Rockford Peaches, the professional women's team featured in the 1992 movie A League of Their Own — for the Baseball For All tournament, in the U13 division.
Thrilled just to play
The Pioneers beat the Boston Slammers 7-5 in the gold-medal game Aug. 5.
On the roster: Sommer Mosher, Lauren Chaulk and Taylor Burton of Corner Brook, Jaida Lee and Kayla Musseau of St. John's, Holly Russell of Grand Falls-Windsor and Hannah Legge of Cow Head.
Shilo Chislett of Kippens also played in the tournament, for the D.C. Force in the U14 division, where she batted in four runs in the gold medal game en route to a tournament batting average of .500. Chislett's younger sister Devaro was an asset to the Boston Slammers in the U11 division, knocking in a three-run home run and helping to tie a game for the team.
For the Newfoundland girls, even just being recruited for the tournament, at the suggestion of a coach from the province, was a thrill.
"I was completely excited, so nervous and too many thoughts running through my head, like 'Oh my god, this is such an amazing thing,'" Burton told CBC's Corner Brook Morning Show.
The connection to the movie made the tournament special too, said Mosher.
"It was really cool going down there to play and have the opening ceremonies in the same place as the movie was held, and just to see everything from the movie and actually be there in real life," she said.
In addition to the tournament, the girls did some sightseeing and shopping, she said.
Burton wound up with an injury and missed the second day of the tournament, but still learned a lot from the instruction and the experience, she said.
"I was learning how to pick up different plays and just how to do different things with the ball that I never knew I would do," she said.
Cherishing the experience and friends made
Both girls said the tournament also succeeded in its goal of empowering girls, in sports and in life.
"I can't see myself not playing baseball," said Burton. "If I didn't play baseball, I wouldn't have the friends that I have now. That tournament made me have so many more friends that are just the kindest people I know, and it just made me really happy."
Winning the tournament was the icing on the cake, said Mosher.
"I was just excited playing down there, and it didn't really cross my mind that we could win gold, and when we did I was just super-excited."
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