Havana Ball

By JOE McFARLAND

You can’t blame anyone for wanting to escape the frigid cold February climate in Alberta. As Old Man Winter’s grip on the province remained tight longer than many expected or hoped, many were looking to spend some time in sunnier locales.

For Alexis Galloway, the reprieve came thanks to the sport she loves.

The Okotoks native was the only Albertan selected to be a part of Baseball Canada’s Girls Development Camp in Havana, Cuba. She was one of 25 female baseball players selected on what the organization has dubbed “a week of baseball and a cultural experience that is equally important as the on-field component.”

The journey is a way for the young women to make an early impression on Baseball Canada brass, as 2018 is a World Cup year for the National Team.

“Playing with a new team, it’s not that big of a deal to me because I’ve done it for a long time before,” Galloway told Alberta Dugout Stories. “You’re nervous at the start, which I think everyone is, but I can overcome my nerves pretty easily and just go out and play.”

SETTING THE STAGE

If the Galloway name doesn’t ring a bell for Alberta baseball fans, the face might. That’s because Alexis and her twin sister Taylor have been around the game for a long time.

They were the Okotoks Dawgs Kids of the Game once, getting an autographed baseball and singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch.

The twins went on to strong careers in the game, even representing Alberta together on occasion.

“It was really cool playing with her with Team Alberta,” Alexis said. “It was such a good experience.”

Both were also part of the new Okotoks Dawgs Academy’s first peewee team, unveiled in 2014 under Josh MacInnis. It was there where things really clicked for Alexis.

“That academy probably made me as good as I am today,” Galloway admitted. “The coaches there were so good. I’ve never faced coaching like that before.”

Galloway was named the Baseball Alberta Peewee Girls player of the year that season. She also made quick friends with MacInnis, who she still connects and works out with. The Academy also showed her a different side of the game.

“The guys treated me really well, which was cool,” she said. “In years before, being the only girl, the boys weren’t all that happy. They didn’t treat me that well.”

“But when I got to the Dawgs the guys were really supportive,” Galloway concluded. “They really showed that they cared for me and just regarded me as another player and not just ‘the girl’ on the team.”

That guidance and support, along with opportunities with Baseball Alberta. In 2017, Galloway received her first phone call to wear the maple leaf as part of Baseball Canada’s Girls Development Camp in Cuba.

SECOND CHANCES

The saying goes that “injury makes the comeback sweeter.” For Galloway, the saying couldn’t be more true.

Excited for the opportunity to represent her country, the youngster made it to the field but an injury on the second day derailed her progress. A disappointment to be sure, yet it also provided her with the added motivation to make it back in 2018.

She kept at it and played on several teams during the summer. Winter passed and she got the call again for the development camp.

“It went really well and I’m really happy with how I played down there,” Galloway reflected.

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Alexis Galloway awaits another pitch while on base (Photos submitted by Galloway).

Her coach was equally impressed.

“I was happy she came back this year,” Women’s National Team Manager Andre Lachance told Alberta Dugout Stories. “She is a very solid baseball player who makes contact with the ball on a regular basis, which is a great asset.”

Galloway pitched and played third base at the camp, which Lachance applauded.

“Wherever he puts me, I’ll just play,” the right-hander smiled, admitting she likes playing in the middle infield.

It wasn’t just a different position that she had to get used to, either. Galloway was also a bit taken aback by the style of baseball they were going up against.

“It’s like the same game, but they play it almost completely different than we do,” she said of her Cuban counterparts. “It’s just really gritty. They’re not very fundamentally sound but they just go out and play and get the job done.”

It’s a mentality Galloway is hoping to take with her heading into the summer months.

ATTENTION GRABBER

Warmer climates are once again on the mind of Galloway and others heading into the summer. The Women’s Baseball World Cup, which happens every two years, is slated to start August 22 in Viera, Florida. She knows every at-bat and every game from this point on will have an impact on the potential of her joining that squad.

The 16-year-old will first look to be with the Alberta contingent at Nationals, where she will be joined by the likes of veterans Nicole Luchanski and Kelsey Lalor.

READ MORE: Luchanski’s Redemption

“We have a really great team here in Alberta,” Galloway said, calling it a small but super-tight group.

“I’m looking forward to see her progression at nationals,” Lachance added. “She is still young and has a promising future. I think consistency is important for the next level as well as playing on a regular basis this summer so she gets reps defensively while facing quality pitching.”

After Nationals, Lachance and his staff will have to make the decisions around a roster for the Florida trip. Canada will be in a group with top-seeded Japan as well as Australia, Cuba, Hong Kong and Dominican Republic. Lachance is hoping to build off a silver medal performance in 2016 in South Korea.

Whether she is a part of it or not, the 5-foot-5, 125-pound infielder is stoked at the idea of the game growing, not just on an international scale but locally as well.

“Even over the past couple of years, it’s grown a lot from when I first started playing,” Galloway said. “It’s really nice to see and I’m really excited for it to continue to grow and I would love to help it out.”

She sees an opportunity for younger girls to get involved in the game in her hometown. And just like Luchanski has done in the past, Galloway is even interested in coaching and helping in any way she can to help grow the game.

“Just like Nicole was for me, now I want to be a trailblazer for girls younger than me.”

Galloway is seemingly on her way.

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