Shari of All Trades

By JOE McFARLAND

From the thrill of victories to the heartbreak of defeats, Shari Reiniger has seen it all on the baseball field.

The Edmontonian has represented Canada at a number of World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) events over the years, as a coach, technical director and commissioner.

But none of her experience prepared her for the 2010 Women’s Baseball World Cup in Venezuela. An athlete was shot in the middle of a game between Hong Kong and the Netherlands at the Estadio Jose Antonio Casanova in Fort Tiuna, a military garrison in Caracas.

“I had a Venezuelan umpire crew that game and they looked at me with shocked faces as this girl goes down,” Reiniger recalled of the incident. “I’m like, ‘What the heck happened?'”

Hong Kong’s Cheuk Woon-Yee was taking the field to play third base in the fourth inning when she was struck in the leg by the stray bullet.

A few games were cancelled while the rest were moved to Maracay, while Hong Kong bowed out of the tournament.

Interestingly, Woon-Yee didn’t let her injury stop her from stepping back onto a baseball field, as she played again for Hong Kong in the 2018 Women’s Baseball World Cup.

“You don’t prepare yourself for anything like that ever happening,” Reiniger told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast. “That was just a crazy incident.”

YOU JUST NEVER KNOW

Reiniger’s “go with the flow” mentality has seemingly been a trademark of not only her work, but of her life in baseball.

It all started with going to American Legion games in her California home town with her dad. That led her down a path of falling in love with the game, listening to Vin Scully call Los Angeles Dodgers games on the radio and then becoming an Atlanta Braves fan watching them on television.

The sport was even a centrepiece of how she ended up in Canada.

“I happened to meet an Alberta college baseball player when I was playing college baseball and I guess that’s where it started,” Reiniger said of her now-husband, Kirk. “We got married on Legion Diamond (in St. Albert) at home plate, the field that my husband’s father built.”

She has been amazed at how one thing has essentially led to another in her journey in baseball. She has worked as a coach and committee member, among many other roles, including a stint as the marketing director for the Western Major Baseball League’s Sherwood Park Dukes in 2007.

“One thing kind of led to another,” Reiniger said. “I kept taking on some new initiative that was out there that needed someone to take the lead or get involved in some hard work and now it’s turned into traveling the globe.”

HARD TO SAY NO

Athletes are always asked about what it’s like to “wear the maple leaf” when they go into international competitions.

Reiniger describes that same feeling when she thinks back to the first time she was asked to represent Baseball Canada as an International Baseball Federation (IBAF) Technical Commissioner at the Women’s Baseball World Cup in Edmonton in 2004.

“What an incredible opportunity to be able to see baseball around the world and see it grow,” Reiniger said. “I kind of have to pinch myself every time I get an assignment.”

It’s the perfect combination for Reiniger, who not only loves baseball but also loves to travel.

This year will be one to remember, as she was asked to represent Baseball Canada again by being named the technical commissioner for both the U18 Baseball World Cup in Gijang, South Korea and the Premier12 Pool A in Zapopan, Mexico. To top it off, she also coached at the World Children’s Baseball Fair in Japan.

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Reiniger (third from right) with the World Children’s Baseball Fair team in a cultural summer kimono. (Photo submitted by Shari Reiniger)

“I’m fortunate to have a husband that supports me being involved and to get these opportunities to get to work with great coaches and baseball leaders from all over the world,” Reiniger smiled.

THE MORE YOU KNOW

The opportunities presented to Reiniger over the last 15 years have also provided her with a unique perspective on the game.

Not only has she faced challenges head on, but she has also watched some of the best in the game take to the field. She talks about working with former Braves slugger Andruw Jones with Team Netherlands in Mexico, as well as USA Baseball’s Andy Stankiewicz and young players like Brice Turang.

“There is always a kid or two that come out of that U18 event and become superstars,” Reiniger stated. “Some go on to play in the majors and even win a World Series.”

When it comes to the Canadian game, she gets to see the growth there as well. She points to Canadians getting drafted and spending a few years in the pro circuit, then coming back home to show future generations what it takes to get to the next step.

She looks at her favourite team as a prime example of that, as Braves rising star and Calgarian Mike Soroka took the league by storm in 2019.

“That maybe doesn’t happen without Jim Lawson out of Calgary and Chris Reitsma coming back when he retired and giving back to those kids and getting them ready,” Reiniger said.

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Reiniger with her family at Cooperstown in 2018. (Photo submitted by Shari Reiniger)

Not only is Soroka putting Canada on the baseball map. Reiniger believes it is the effort of many that has allowed for it all to happen and she’s just one piece of it.

“Canada is very well represented and that’s a pride point as well,” she concluded. “I may be a California girl but I’ve been here more years than when I lived there, so I’m very happy to represent the maple leaf.”

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