Mullaley readies for fastpitch world championships
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.”
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.”
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.
Freshwater native Stephen Mullaley is a member of Canada’s senior men’s fastpitch softball team.