Nfld. & Labrador

Newfoundland girls headed to high-profile U.S. baseball tournament

Players from Grand Falls-Windsor, Corner Brook and St. John's will travel to Illinois for an elite girls' tournament in August.

Holly Russell among players who will be the only Canadians on the Chicago Pioneers

Holly Russell's team, the Central West Ravens, is headed to the under-14 Atlantic Championships in a few weeks. (Provided by Heather Russell)

Several Newfoundland girls will be the only Canadians playing with the Chicago Pioneers female team for the 2018 Baseball For All national tournament this summer.

Holly Russell of Grand Falls-Windsor will join four girls from Corner Brook and two from St. John's when they travel this August to Rockford, Ill. — the home of the Rockford Peaches, the professional women's team that played with the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and was featured in the movie A League of Their Own.

"It's one of my favourite movies," Russell, 13, told the Central Morning Show.

Holly Russell dressed up for Halloween as a player from the Rockford Peaches, the team featured in the movie A League of Their Own. (Provided by Heather Russell)

The connection to her on-screen hero Dottie Hinson isn't the only reason Russell, who plays first base and pitches for the Central West Ravens, is excited to travel to the tournament, where she'll play in the under-13 division.

The tournament, which draws more than 250 girls from around the world, is typically attended by pro scouts and was launched in 2006 as a way to help develop elite female players.

"This is a huge opportunity for me and I'm really excited to go," said Russell, who began playing baseball as a young child with her grandfather Bruce Goulding, a member of the Newfoundland Amateur Baseball Association Hall of Fame.

Two Kippens players, Shilo and Devaro Chislett, will also be playing at the tournament on other teams, CBC News has been told. Shilo will be playing with the D.C. Force in the under-14 division and Devaro will be playing with the Boston Slammers in the under-11 division.

Years of growth for Grand Falls-Windsor team

The attendance of several Newfoundland-based athletes at the tournament attests to the growth Holly's mother, Heather Russell, says the girls' division of the Grand Falls-Windsor Minor Baseball Association has undergone over the past five years.

In 2011, the team attended their first provincial tournament, playing against St. John's and Mount Pearl.

Holly Russell of Grand Falls-Windsor plays first base and pitches for the Central West Ravens. (Provided by Heather Russell)

"We went out there without any expectations," said Heather Russell, who is also the director of the female division of Grand Falls-Windsor Minor Baseball.

"However, the girls went out there and won provincials."

There are many reasons why the girls on the team first get involved, she said, including the fun of playing, an interest in making friends and the opportunity to travel within the province. The Ravens will play in the under-14 Atlantic Championships in a few weeks.

"Once they get involved, they're hooked," she said.

Focus right now is on playing

Though big opportunities could come out of Holly's participation in the Illinois tournament this summer, her mother said the focus right now is just day by day and season by season.

"We just want to get her on the field and get her playing as much as she can," her mother said.

As for Holly, she's nervous about playing against experienced players but isn't thinking too far beyond the tournament just yet.

"I just want to play more ball."

The Rockford tournament runs Aug. 2-5.

With files from the Central Morning Show