2012 OIWFA Year in Review
When you look back on the last 12 months, it has been what many would call a flagship year for the OIWFA. The OIWFA had one of its most successful years in recent history, creating some unique opportunities for our over 200 athletes reaching a whole new target audience; both softball enthusiasts and beyond.
There was no time to waste entering into the early months of 2012 as the OIWFA collaborated with the OCAA, WCSA (formerly AIWFA), and University of New Brunswick to create the Canadian Collegiate Softball Association (CCSA). Launching this newly found association in January, the CCSA is the governing body of collegiate level Fast Pitch in Canada and is also responsible for the promotion, support and development of the sport at this level. The yearly Intercollegiate National Championships will now fall under standards set out by the CCSA and our great partner in Softball Canada, adding more legitimacy than has been in the past. This movement will spread a great awareness of the sport at the intercollegiate level and further help develop softball at all ages.
In May of 2012, Brian Bates, head coach with York Lions, arranged an interview with David Grossman on Sportsnet 590 The Fan with OIWFA President Matt Allen. Didn’t catch the interview? You can still listen by clicking here and going to the 18:55 mark. Allen discussed the state of university softball in Canada, where he sees it moving forward and major obstacles in obtaining softball as a recognized varsity sport in Ontario and Canada. This opportunity which was in the midst of the summer ball season beginning, gave the OIWFA its first large scale voice to the league in recent memory.
The summer months proved to be a busy time for the OIWFA. Creating new and exciting partnerships seemed to be the theme of 2012. The OIWFA were ecstatic to form partnerships with Softball Ontario FP Umpire Program, Home-Run Sports as the Official Supplier to the OIWFA and Sponsor of the 24 OIWFA MVP Awards, Worth as the Official Ball of the OIWFA, Cornerstone Courier as the Presenting Sponsor of the OIWFA Championships, PWSA as the Sponsor of the Provincial Championship medal rounds, Jack Fireman Lawyers and Associates, and Airit Media along with Ballpark Radio as major contributors to the second consecutive year of streaming the Provincial Championships. Finally, the return of a much coveted championship banner was graciously donated by Debbie Malissani in which the victor of the championships would lay acclaim to.
As the 2012 season approached, the OIWFA came out with a major announcement in its first ever clothing line, supplied by HR Sports. Orders can still be made by clicking here. We also made a number of appearances at PWSA events and reached out by creating an OIWFA branded insert card which was supplied for all PWSA Bantam and Midget players competing at a Provincial Championship.
What a busy start to the year…and the first pitch has yet to even be thrown. Going into the season, there may have been more questions than ever before. Would anybody dethrone the Western Mustangs? Would an OIWFA team recapture the National crown? Would one of the bottom four teams last year make a push to the Championships? And who would surprise us all?
Before you read any further, perhaps you weren’t able to make it to the Championships weekend? Thanks largely to Cornerstone Courier – Kitchener who stepped up as the Presenting Sponsor of the OIWFA Championships, a number of games were streamed live with play by play from experts in the field including Kyle Smith, Joe Todd, and Blair Setford who are renowned with broadcasting men’s softball around the globe, giving us an avenue to yet another whole new audience to the university game. These three, along with Airit Media added a whole new level of professionalism in the second year of live-streaming with commercials, in-screen scoring, logos, and much more. Unfortunately not all games that were scheduled to be on the main diamond were able to be streamed live to do inclement weather, but you can still view all games that were broadcasted here. Huge thanks to Ballpark Radio, Airit Media, and Cornerstone Courier for making this all possible again.
Entering into week 1 of the official season, it appeared the Mustangs drive for another undefeated season would not be quite so easy, defeating Windsor and Ottawa 2-0 each, and had a slim lead over Laurier 2-1 going into the sixth inning. And yet the ‘Stangs proved they had one more undefeated regular season in them, becoming the first team to repeat as National Champions and a three-peat for the OIWFA title, giving them without a shadow of a doubt the label of the best softball program at the Intercollegiate level in Canada. It was on Thanksgiving weekend when the Mustangs made the trek out west to a brisk Regina weekend for the fifth Intercollegiate National Championships, first time under the CCSA umbrella. Putting on nothing but an absolute class act weekend by the University of Regina softball program, the Mustangs suffered their first Canadian loss to Durham College, only to strike their revenge in the gold medal contest in decisive fashion, claiming the third (of five) OIWFA gold medal at the National Championships. Full recaps are available on the CCSA website.
Following what was an extremely competitive 2011 season, this past year certainly did not disappoint. Every weekend saw major shuffling in the standings column, with the final day having major play-off implications. After making last year’s gold medal game an absolute gem, the Toronto Varsity Blues struggled to find their way with a number of injuries and set-backs, falling short of making the play-off picture this year, much as the McMaster Marauders and Carelton Ravens battled every weekend in a number of close matchups but fell short of the top eight. And for the first time in their programs successful history, the Windsor Lancer’s found themselves on the sidelines when it came to the final weekend, this showing just how competitive the entire 2012 campaign really was with a talented Lancer’s lineup.
Certainly, one of the most bizarre moments in OIWFA history came on Friday night of week two when Toronto and Guelph battled to a marathon game, and yes, we mean a marathon game in a three plus hour 25-24 Gryphons victory. Those same Gryphons’s made a great leap this year under the new coaching leadership of Ian Abbott, missing the playoff picture in ’11, they turned into falling just short of the podium this season thanks to a come from behind victory by the Waterloo Warriors. Those Warrior’s definitely made a statement that their bronze medal last year was no fluke, claiming ownership to that third place position once again, doing it in their own quiet and somewhat deceiving way with a roster full great skill.
The York Lions stumbled out of the gate in week 1 going 3-3, but found their way shortly thereafter with some key victories, even giving Western a scare by taking a 4-0 lead late in the final two innings of the last regular season, before falling short 6-4. Advancing to quarter-final action, in thanks to a tiebreaker rule bumping Laurier out of contention, the Lions could not muster enough offence against the aforementioned Warriors.
The Laurier Golden Hawks struggled to find a sense consistency over the season, resulting in their poorest finish in regular season (5th place) over the past number of years. After an exciting opener against rivaled Western on Friday night on Championship weekend, the Golden Hawks came out firing against York in a significant victory, and were then stunned by the surprising Queen’s Gaels in the final round robin game, bumping Laurier from quarter-final action for the first time in six years. Kudos to the Queen’s Gaels who were a great success story in2012, making it to their first quarter-final action in their programs history before being defeated by Guelph in a 1-0 game.
The Brock Badgers seemed certain to be a team that would be playing deep into the medal round this year. They were a force during the regular season; showing stellar defence partnered with some excellent pitching and newly discovered offensive abilities. However, it was that same offense that proved to be the Achilles heel for the Badgers who crossed only four runners in three games over Championship weekend and were ousted from contention.
The Ottawa Gee Gee’s simply did ‘their thing’ all season, placing second behind the Mustangs in regular season. In three very close contests during the Championships, the Gee Gee’s could only describe the gold medal contest as a major disappointment. When it comes to the Championship Game at Stronach Park for the OIWFA, history says it promises to be a game for the ages. From the Laurier/Western 10 inning marathon in 2007, McMaster stunning Western in 2009, a great game last year between Western and Toronto once again in extra innings, this year may have topped them all. With Ottawa leading for the majority of the game, thanks largely to some outstanding catches by the Gee Gee’s left-fielder, the Mustangs came back late in the game to extend the affair to extra innings. After holding Western scoreless in the top of the eighth with the likes of former National team player Shannon Davidson at the plate, the Gee Gee’s failed to score in the bottom half. And when you give Western a second chance; it proves to be your biggest mistake as the Mustangs offense exploded for a 9-4 repeat victory in nine innings.
Have we mentioned on site all weekend at the OIWFA Provincial Championships was the Rick Mercer Report? Contacted in early April and confirmed in early October, RMR was intrigued by the fact that OIWFA has been a non-funded and non-recognized sport in Ontario at the Intercollegiate level for over 11 years. Adding his typical humour to the issue, Rick shed a professional and entertaining light on the dedication and passion OIWFA athletes and coaches have to continue to fight for recognition as a sport. There was a definite ‘buzz’ that Rick gave to the weekend at Stronach Park, under mostly rainy skies and we are forever thankful to Rick and his crew for seeing value and adding a voice to the ongoing battle for softball at the University level. Missed the episode? It was originally aired in November 2012 to over one million Canadians on CBC and you can still catch our slip by clicking here with over 20 thousand views on You Tube (from February 2013). In sitting down with Rick after the first day along with some of our OIWFA partners, Rick was astonished by the fact that OIWFA athletes have to pay to play in softball for their University while other varsity athletes in other sports have minimal (if any) costs to do the exact same thing. Not only that , but the fact that many OIWFA coaches are required to put money out of their individual pockets to ensure the programs are all sustainable was shocking for Mr. Mercer. It was with the utmost and sincere appreciation that Rick Mercer extended to the entire OIWFA family the fight for equality to simply play the game they love. To that – we applaud every OIWFA athlete and coach, both past and present who are pioneers to the movement of the game! Thank you – for what you have all done for the sport and the OIWFA.
And we’re not done yet! Over the course of the Championships weekend, a number of athletes were filmed in the making of the OIWFA’s PSA partnered with the You Can Play Project to reduce homophobia that surrounds the sporting culture. Joining us again in making this statement was a special appearance by Rick Mercer himself. Reaching a whole new audience across North America, the PSA and write-up is still available by clicking here. This decision was an easy one for the OIWFA given the amount of community service and awareness that many of our 12 teams give every year. From Laurier’s Pink Day in the Park, Future Lancer’s camps at Windsor for aspiring softball players, Minor Ball Day at Western, to McMasters Athlete’s Care Program and Ottawa’s Homeless Awareness, Mental Illness Awareness, and a variety of other special game days events, the OIWFA sees value beyond the competition on the diamond, making the You Can Play Project video a “no-brainer.”
It was without doubt a busy year for us with the OIWFA. We have made some great strides and put our face out to a whole new audience who we hope will take an interest for the future of the league. The future of the game both in Ontario and Canada looks promising. Adding new initiates, new partnerships, and new ideas were all keys to success for 2012, and we will continue to build off this moving forward. We are excited that the Canadian Championships are set to return to the OIWFA this year with a host to be named shortly.
The OIWFA has maintained through adversity for over 11 years by being dynamic in its thinking based on the needs of our athletes. That will be the case once again in 2013 with a number of new items being passed at the Annual General Meeting, most notably a rotating host for the Provincial Championships with the 2013 host school to be named in the coming weeks.
With the spring being here before we know it, excitement for the upcoming season will soon be upon us. Much like any year in the OIWFA, many questions will quickly arise. Who will be the dark-horse of the season? Will Western be bumped from top spot? And what does the OIWFA executive have next in store for its fans? So many questions and yet the only way to get the answers are to see us at the ballpark and stay tuned on Facebook and Twitter.
OIWFA Releases First Canadian University Sport You Can Play Video
The women of the Ontario Intercollegiate Women's Fastpitch Association, joined by coaches and announcer Rick Mercer, become the first in their sport to support LGBT athletes through the You Can Play Project.
Representing the 12 intercollegiate teams in the association with a message of inclusion is important to the players and coaches. Laurier University's Matt Allen, an assistant coach and th OIWFA president, says the video was made because, "as a whole, we want to educate the public on women's sport - in particular softball - that sexuality does not impact your throw, your pitch, your bunting or hitting abilities." Allen references Canadian Olympic champion Mark Tewksbury's comments about issues facing women in sports: the stigma of women's sport is that women don't come out because it perpetuates the stereotype that all female athletes are gay. "What you do as an athlete in your own life and who you are attracted to has no bearing on your skillset as a softball player," Allen said.
"As coaches at the university level, we have such an amazing experience to see our athletes develop through their formative adult years," Allen continues. "It's amazing for us as coaches to see a timid, shy, and apprehensive first year student come into our system who appears to have a lack of confidence, then decide to come out during university and is a completely new person...she shows such an improvement with onfield performance as a result of discovering who they are as a person."
Amelia Keech, a Queen's University pitcher, says her team would react with overwhelming support of an out teammate. "Coming out is one of the hardest things an athlete will ever have to do and knowing you have a supportive team to come out to will do nothing but help an LGBT teammate," Keech says. "We adhere to the goals and values of a team and, as teams, we adhere to the goals and values of the league. Setting a league's value to respect and support all players, regardless of their sexual orientation, is an important step to the eventual goal: the inclusivity of all players of the sport of fastpitch."
Catcher Hannah Hallsworth of McMaster University believes the You Can Play video will "encourage athletes of the LGBT community to feel assured they are welcome on our teams...I have had the privilege of meeting many girls from all different walks of life, including those from the LGBT community. From experience, the team has always been welcoming and never exclusive of a teammate with regard to sexual orientation. A team is a team, we are as one, together."
OIWFA Launches Official Clothing Line
Earlier this year, the Ontario Intercollegiate Women's Fastpitch Association (OIWFA) agreed to an official partnership with Home Run Sports. This exciting new partnership will enable the OIWFA and HR Sports the opportunities to build a better community presence presence within the game of softball at the Intercollegiate level in Canada and beyond. HR Sports is a one-stop shop for ALL your fastpitch/softball needs. Based out of Mississauga, HR caters to softball specific uniforms, equipment, clothing, etc with unique access to retailers such as Nike, Under Armour, and Mizuno at a great price.
As the "Official Supplier of the OIWFA," HR Sports will now provide our over 200 OIWFA athletes and coaches with discount cards for orders via phone with shipping. Cards will be available through the season from the OIWFA executive. For more information on HR Sports and discount, please contact Carly Laxton
As the first official initiative from the OIWFA and HR Sports as the Official Supplier to the OIWFA, we are pleased to offer the first ever OIWFA Clothing Line. Order information and products are all available by clicking here. Orders must be submitted by October 5th, 2012 in order to receieve at the Provincial Championships in London on October 19-21. Others after this date will be accepted, however will be subject to shipping costs.
Orders MUST be submitted to OIWFA President Matt Allen with attachment of order form. Cheques must be payable to OIWFA before order will be confirmed.