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It’s a long haul from St. Anthony to Corner Brook, particularly in the winter.
“Some spots are a bit rough,” admits Nikki Rose, who hails from the small Northern Peninsula town.
She still lives and works there as a teacher, but she may have logged enough hours to be a driving instructor at this point, as she regularly makes the trek on down the Viking Trail towards Corner Brook, where her happy place awaits her.
Rose is an avid softball player. She’s been at it since she was eight years old, when she’d toss the ball around out in the road with her father after she had just watched him play at the ball field.
“I like everything about it, honestly,” she says in response to the obvious question.
“I just love how it’s a team sport, you’re playing for the team,” she said. “It’s not an individual thing.”
She remembers the days when there would be five or six teams on the Northern Peninsula, but now it’s a struggle to field one.
“That’s a bit of a letdown for me, for sure,” she said.
Hence, the long drives to Corner Brook. Multiple times throughout the summer, in fact, as she suits up for Whelan’s Gate of the Corner Brook Molson Ladies Fastpitch Softball League. She’s been a member of the league, that plays four nights a week, for almost a decade.
She’ll come down to the city, stick around for a few days, and hopefully get two or three games in before heading back up the coast.
Nothing to it in the summer, especially for a teacher.
These days she’s making the drive down the uncertain winter road in the name of one goal — making Team Western NL and competing at the Women’s Fastpitch Softball Nationals, which takes place in St. John’s Aug. 14-18. The host team is comprised of east coast players, so the west coast was able to field its own entrant.
Asked whether the five- to six-hour drive is a hassle, “Absolutely not,” she says.
“I love the drive … well, not necessarily the drive,” she corrects herself.
“But I love what I’m coming for,” she continues. “I look forward to it all week long, then the weekend comes, and I get to play a bit of ball.”
It’s a different experience inside a gymnasium during the winter months, she acknowledges, where the indoor balls bounce differently, and the enclosure doesn’t allow for particularly far throws.
“It’s a bit of an adjustment.”
The 29-year-old was one of 24 hopefuls who attended the first team tryout two weeks ago, and was among 21 that took part last weekend. Another strong turnout is hoped for this Sunday’s open session, which takes place 9:30-11 a.m. at the Grenfell Campus gymnasium.
All that is required is a pair of indoor sneakers, a glove, and a small fee to cover the cost of the gym rental.
All ages are welcome, and skill levels can vary.
Rose’s motivation to make the team is simple — she has played with and against many of those trying out and she’d relish the chance to call them all teammates, especially on a national stage.
She also believes a strong showing could provide a real boost to the women’s softball scene in this area, and the province as a whole.
“To have an opportunity to play in a national tournament,” she says. “That’s major for such a small province.
“That would be phenomenal.”