Stephen Mullaley reflects on Pan Am Games, World Championships
When a good hitter finds his comfort zone in the batting box only great things can come of it.
Just ask the Team Canada male fast pitch softball team after they witnessed Freshwater native Stephen Mullaley get on a hot streak that carried them through the playoffs of the ISF World Fast Pitch Championships and the Pan American Games. Mullaley played a big role in helping Canada win at the worlds and claim gold at the Pam Am Games.
In his final 11 games, the slugging first baseman owned opposition pitching.
Mullaley went 18 for 33 during that time, which is good for a .545 batting average.
He also picked up three walks, four home runs and knocked in 19 runs during that span.
“I felt comfortable in the box and I’m happy that it happened in those two tournaments in particular,” he said. “Anyone on our team can get in a groove like that, and it makes it easier to get comfortable (at the plate) with the lineup that we had.
“You never had much pressure on one hitter. You knew that if you didn’t get it done, someone else was going to do it.”
In the round robin of the ISF tournament, Mullaley hit a pedestrian, by comparison, .313 with two homeruns and four runs batted in.
He attributes his hot streak at the plate to his attitude and approach. During the world championships, Mullaley found himself heading to the plate thinking about not striking out.
“We put a lot of work in training and practicing hitting, but also mentally and being better prepared to perform in pressure situations,” he said. “In the championship (of the worlds) I got hot, but during the week against that pitcher I had struggled. He struck me out three times.
“I was thinking about it between games and at-bats about what adjustments I have to make. I found I was getting in the box and trying not to strike out and not getting in the box and trying to hit the ball hard.”
The adjustment obviously worked, as Mullaley helped lead Team Canada to both a world championship and a Pan American gold medal.
The Pan Ams
Impressive solo statistics aside, Mullaley and his teammates put together a solid week at the Pan American Games. Canada, which featured five Newfoundland players and a pair of coaches, never lost at the athletic spectacle and finished with a record of 7-0, including a tight 2-1 victory over Venezuela in the gold medal game.
“It was an incredible experience,” said Mullaley. “I’m especially proud of how the team pulled together after the World Championships and as a group we really focused on the Pan Ams the very next week. We never rested on the success of the worlds. “We knew what an opportunity (to win), the Pan Ams were on home soil and we immediately shifted focus.” Two different feelings Two weeks and two different tournaments on the world stage can be a mental and physical grind for any athlete. They get into one routine at one tourney, and then have to find that same routine at the next one.
Mullaley said the Canadian softball team got back into that routine quickly at the Pan Ams. Coincidentally, that resulted in its second gold medal in less than a month.
“We had a hope that we would (win both championships),” he said. “We were very aware of how difficult it would be if we did. We knew we had the team to do it.” Mullaley called the ISF World Championships “the pinnacle” of the softball world.
“It was two different feelings,” he said.
Words from home
In the midst of the Games, Mullaley received a special message from home. The local sporting community gathered at a ball field in Placentia to record a video wishing Mullaley and the rest of Team Canada good luck the rest of the way.
“I saw it on my phone on the bus on the way to the ball field,” he said. “All the guys gathered around and watched it. That was something very special and I’m grateful that they did that.”
For Mullaley, it was his first appearance at the Pan Am Games, and the first time softball was held at the Games since 2003. Canada has a strong tradition in the tournament.
In seven tournaments from 1979 to 2003, Canada won the gold medal each time.
“We wanted to keep that tradition going,” said Mullaley. “Walking into the athlete’s village with a gold medal around your neck for the greater, bigger Team Canada, the other Canadian athletes are waiting for you and giving you standing ovations.
“It is very special from that standpoint.”
Stephen Mullaley, left, of Freshwater, Placentia Bay, returned to his hometown over the weekend to celebrate his contributions to Team Canada's gold medal performance at the Pan Am Games in Toronto. A motorcade and meet and greet took place Saturday, Aug. 1. Seen here with Mullaley are a couple of his young fans — Marcus Pittman (centre) and Parker O'Reilly
Freshwater (Placentia Bay) native Stephen Mullaley went 9-for-14 overall at the plate for Canada in its five preliminary-round wins at the Pan Am Games men’s softball competition, driving in eight runs and scoring five more.