The Toronto Blue Jays have had a nightmare of a season. That’s not news. But if you’re looking for a fun sport to follow during the year, Toronto may have a championship contender in the fastpitch scene.
The Ryerson Rams fastpitch team is scheduled to start the regular season Friday night, with a pair of games against York University.
The team took part in a pre-season tournament last weekend, scoring two wins (9-7 against Seneca and 9-1 against U of T) and one loss (3-2 to Humber).
The main goal for the fastpitch team this season is to be one of eight in an 11-team league to make the playoffs, which take place in mid-October.
“I think it’s very feasible,” says first baseman Hayley Graham. “I think it will happen if we play the same way we played in pre-season.”
That goal is something the team came close to in its inaugural season, where eight of 13 teams made the post-season.
“Last year we were one spot away from the playoffs,” says second baseman Emily Rickson. “We really want to make it this year.”
Fastpitch is considered a club team, meaning there is no funding from the school. That can create an added challenge for the team, which has to pay all expenses out of pocket.
“Money raised for the team is through player fees, fundraising such as our GoFundMe program and sponsorship,” says head coach Wayne Nishihama. “Coaches are volunteers, and equipment for the team is borrowed by the coaches’ club teams.”
There is a long list of expenses, ranging from uniforms and permits to league fees and travel expenses.
“It would be nice if anybody donated two or five dollars,” says outfielder Vanessa Flacco. “Anything helps to go towards the team. It just helps with getting the field prepared and just the costs of playing ball.”
There will be some roster changes for the team to get used to, such as the addition of new players like Flacco.
“Everyone is working as a team and we bonded so much,” says Flacco, a first-year RTA Sports Media student. “We had two or three practices and then we went straight into games and we’ve really molded well together.”
This connection is something that is noticed by returning players as well.
“This year the chemistry and the bonding between the team, it’s so there,” says Graham, a fourth-year RTA Sports Media student. “It’s like we’ve been friends. For 13, 14 girls to actually connect like that is pretty special.”
The season starts with four road series, totalling eight games. That long road stretch may not be a bad thing.
“I’m actually happy that we’re away first,” says Rickson, who is in her third year of Early Childhood Studies. “Last year, we had a lot of home games first and at the end of the season, once we got really tired and weren’t really sure how much stamina we had left, we had our away games.”
And while there are a lot of early away games, the schedule does leave room for rest, so the team will travel a day ahead for some out-of-town games.
“We’re going down Thursday night and we’re sleeping in Friday morning,” says Flacco. “So it’s not like we’re going down the same day. We’ll have plenty of time to relax, get our food and get settled in.”
— Ryerson Fastpitch (@RRamsFastpitch) August 21, 2017
The players aren’t the only ones who don’t mind the road stretch.
“I think this is a positive,” says Nishihama. “It allows for team bonding especially with so many new players.”
The team is not well known around campus, as they are only going into their second season. The club is not really visible either, as home field is located off-campus, in North York.
But the team says, like other sports, it can be fun to watch.
“We play just as hard, we’re just as competitive as every other team,” says Graham. “We do play at the collegiate level, even though we’re considered a club team.”
Adds Rickson, “I think we’re going to do really well this year, we’re going to have some really good competition and have some good games to watch.”
How will the team do in their first regular season appearance? Find out tonight at 7 p.m.