Mul­la­ley read­ies for fast­pitch world cham­pi­onships

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

Fresh­wa­ter, Pla­cen­tia Bay na­tive Stephen Mul­la­ley is en­ter­ing his 10th sum­mer as a mem­ber of the Canadian men’s fast­pitch team and it is shap­ing up to be the best yet. Mul­la­ley and his team­mates will suit up for the world cham­pi­onships in early July be­fore head­ing to the Pan Amer­i­can Games later that same month.

Stephen Mul­la­ley’s jour­ney to the up­com­ing 2015 ISF Men’s World Fast­pitch Cham­pi­onships and Pan Amer­i­can Games be­gins like many oth­ers.

It starts by hav­ing a sim­ple game of catch with his fa­ther Fin­ton at the fam­ily’s Fresh­wa­ter, Pla­cen­tia Bay home at the age of three.

“I fell in love with it right away,” said Mul­la­ley. “I was al­ways bug­ging dad to come out for a catch and I watched him play a lot too.”

Now 31, Mul­la­ley is pre­par­ing for his 10th sum­mer as a mem­ber of the Canadian Men’s Soft- ball Team af­ter be­ing named to the squad two weeks ago. He is one of five play­ers from New­found­land and Labrador named to the team along with Ja­son Hill, Ryan Boland, Sean Cleary and Brad Ezekial.

There are also two as­sis­tant coaches — John Hill and Les Cowey — from this prov­ince with the team.

“We have a large con­tin­gent from this prov­ince on the team,” said Mul­la­ley, a first base­man. “It might be the big­gest yet.”

The world cham­pi­onships are set for Saska­toon, Sask., June 26July 5, while the Pan Amer­i­can Games por­tion of men’s soft­ball is be­ing played in Ajax, Ont., July 12-18.

“It will be the first Pan Amer­i­can Games ac­tion for a lot of the na­tional team,” said Mul­la­ley. “It’s un­be­liev­able.”

Play­ing at home — Mul­la­ley lives in Oakville, Ont. — will be a change of pace for the na­tional team. In­stead of hav­ing fam­ily and friends keep­ing track of the tour­na­ment via web­sites and watch­ing the games on tele­vi­sion, they’ll be able to at­tend in per­son. Mul­la­ley’s par­ents are also mak­ing the trip to On­tario.

“It’s a once-in-a-life­time op­por­tu­nity for all of us,” he said. “To share it with friends and fam­ily where they don’t have to fol­low it on the In­ter­net, they can be there an ex­pe­ri­ence it with you.

“We know how spe­cial it is and how big of an op­por­tu­nity it is. That’s part of why we’ve ded­i­cated our­selves so much to th­ese two events.”

High ex­pec­ta­tions

Any time an ath­lete pulls a Team Canada jer­sey over their shoul­ders, there is an im­mense sense of pride and ex­pec­ta­tions that come with it. Mul­la­ley ad­mits that even af­ter a decade on the na­tional team, he still gets ner­vous be­fore games.

“With this group, we’ve set the ex­pec­ta­tions to com­ing home with two gold medals,” he said. “It is go­ing to be dif­fi­cult, but it is re­al­is­tic and that’s what we want to come away with.”

Mul­la­ley is look­ing for­ward to games against teams like New Zealand, Australia, Venezuela and Ar­gentina.

“Those have been the teams we’ve had the best games against,” he said. “We’ve won some, we’ve lost some, but the level of com­pe­ti­tion when we play those teams is the best soft­ball in the world.”

New­found­land strong

For those in the know, this prov­ince has al­ways had a knack for pro­duc­ing Grade-A ball play­ers. From Colin Ab­bott to Ward Gosse, there have al­ways been some top-notch play­ers

And, that’s just the game of soft­ball. That doesn’t count the same strong tra­di­tion of pro­duc­ing base­ball play­ers.

With the large group rep­re­sent­ing New­found­land and Labrador on the na­tional stage and two NL teams squar­ing off in the fi­nal of the na­tional cham­pi­onship, the ex­act skill level of the ath­letes here is get­ting the de­served recog­ni­tion.

“New­found­land’s play­ers are some of the best in the world,” said Mul­la­ley. “New­found­land and Labrador play­ers are for real.”

A bright fu­ture

Through the power of the In­ter­net, Mul­la­ley is able to keep an eye on the soft­ball be­ing played at home. He makes note of the im­mense tal­ent that ex­ists here, es­pe­cially in his home area of Pla­cen­tia.

“It is im­por­tant to note what play­ing in Pla­cen­tia did for my devel­op­ment,” he said. “It was crit­i­cal.”

Mul­la­ley men­tioned a cou­ple of names who are ones to keep an eye on in the near fu­ture. Names like Jeremy O’Reilly and Nick Pittman are set to carry on the fine Pla­cen­tia soft­ball tra­di­tion.

“They’ll be play­ers to watch for sure,” said Mul­la­ley.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Fresh­wa­ter na­tive Stephen Mul­la­ley is a mem­ber of Canada’s se­nior men’s fast­pitch soft­ball team.

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