Montreal

Power-hitting catcher Stéphanie Savoie is first female player in Quebec's baseball HOF

Savoie, 30, is one of the first women who didn't play in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League — the league featured in A League of their Own, which existed from 1943 to 1954 — to receive such an honour, in any province or nationally.

'I'm grateful that my name will appear there, because the names that are on that wall are big names,' she says

Stéphanie Savoie is also the youngest person in Quebec's Baseball Hall of Fame, which includes former players, broadcasters and people who helped build the sport. (Agence Photobanque)

Girls across Quebec who spend their summers playing baseball now have a hall of famer they can look up to.

Like many of them, Stéphanie Savoie got her start playing with boys in her hometown league.

In November, Savoie became the first female baseball player to be inducted into Quebec's Baseball Hall of Fame. (The first woman to ever be inducted was Francyne Lauzon, a scorekeeper, in 2003).

Savoie, 30, is one of the first women who didn't play in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League — the league featured in A League of their Own, which existed from 1943 to 1954 — to receive such an honour, in any province or nationally.

The power-hitting catcher is also the youngest person in Quebec's hall of fame, which includes personalities such as former Expos Gary Carter and Rusty Staub and broadcasters Rodger Brulotte and Jacques Doucet.

"It was a nice night. I'll remember it for a long time," Savoie told Radio-Canada's Même fréquence.

"I'm grateful that my name will appear there, because the names that are on that wall are big names."

Sticking with it

Savoie's older brother started playing baseball when he was four, and she would tag along and watch. When she turned four, it was her turn.

She joined the league in La Pocatière, Que., about 140 kilometres northeast of Quebec City, where she grew up, and played mostly with boys. Each year there were a few girls on her team, but the following season, they would disappear. She was the only one who stuck with it.

At age 14, she made the provincial team, her first time on an all-girls team.

She played on the provincial team for a few years, and eventually was selected to join the national team in 2008. She won the starting catcher job on that team in 2012, a feat she has said was one of her greatest achievements.

Stéphanie Savoie is congratulated by teammates after scoring on a hit by teammate Jenna Flannigan in the sixth inning of their baseball game against Cuba at the Pan American Games in Ajax, Ont., on Tuesday, July 20, 2015. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press)

In a tribute video shown at the awards ceremony, national team manager André Lachance said Savoie was the first power hitter the program had seen since it began 2004.

"She could intimidate opponents with her physical strength [and] her ability to do damage as a hitter," he said.

But she was also known for the arm she used to nab runners on the base paths. At the 2014 Women's Baseball World Cup, she threw out six attempted base stealers on 17 attempts.

Here's a partial list of other things she accomplished during her career:

  • Won silver with Canada at the Pan Am Games in 2015, silver at the Women's Baseball World Cup in 2008 and bronze at the same event in 2012.
  • Named the best female catcher in the world during the 2012 and 2014 Women's Baseball World Cup.
  • Finalist for the Tip O'Neill Award, given annually to the best Canadian baseball player of the year, in 2014.
  • Named Team Canada MVP in 2014.

Playing baseball has allowed her to become a better person, she said, as well as giving her the opportunity to travel.

"I went all over. I went to Japan, I went to Cuba, I went to the U.S. … I took some really nice trips, thanks to baseball."

No regrets

She retired in 2015, after the Pan Am Games.

"I haven't once regretted leaving when I did. I was ready to stop playing baseball," she said.

Savoie, who is now a teacher, said she watches games every now and then, but is happy with her life away from the diamond.

Savoie hasn't ruled out returning to the field, possibly to coach her daughter, who is now two.

Savoie flanked by other honourees at the awards ceremony. (Agence Photobanque)

with files from Radio-Canada's René Levesque

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