When 16-year-old Jaida Lee of St. John's played in the male baseball competition at the Canada Summer Games in August, she knew she was making history.
What she didn't expect was the ball she used for her first pitch would eventually make it into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
"I didn't really think they were being serious," said Lee, standing beside the display case at the Hall of Fame in St. Mary's, Ont. "I definitely didn't expect it."
Lee made baseball history at the Canada Summer Games in August by becoming the first female to play in the male baseball competition since it began in 1967.
On Friday, she visited the Hall of Fame in St. Mary's, Ont., to get a look at a display case dedicated to female baseball, with the first ball she threw at the Canada Summer Games prominently featured. She said it's "very cool" seeing her ball on display beside the jerseys of Canadian baseball legends like Larry Walker, who played in the major leagues for 17 years.
"It's pretty cool seeing my picture here with everyone else's here," said Lee. "Definitely accomplishing, for sure."
Lee says her interest in baseball began when she watched her two older brothers play while her father, Dave Lee, coached them. When her dad learned his daughter would be honoured in the Hall of Fame, she said, he was beyond proud.
"My dad was very excited, he got a little emotional. It was adorable," said Lee. "He was very sweet and he was very proud of me for sure."
Inspiring future generations
Lee's historic pitch took her to Toronto, where she threw the first pitch at a Toronto Blue Jays home game.
2025 will be the first year female baseball is played at the Games, which are being held in Lee's hometown of St. John's.
Lee, who was Newfoundland and Labrador's flag-bearer in the opening ceremony of the 2022 Games, says she was excited when she learned female baseball would be added to Summer Games and she hopes to be involved as a coach, trainer or scorekeeper.
"When I first heard it, it definitely brought a smile to my face," said Lee. "It was pretty cool to see that change has happened."
Scott Crawford, director of operations at the Hall of Fame, said it's important for the Hall to honour historic firsts like Lee's. He said he hopes the display will inspire other female athletes to follow their dreams.
"It's pretty cool to have an item on display in any Hall of Fame or museum," said Crawford, "and [Lee's] lucky enough to have it."
Lee says she's proud to know many other young women now look up to her as one of their role models.
"It feels pretty good to know that they're looking to me for someone to influence them," said Lee, "and to know that I can have that impact on younger children, it's pretty cool."