The Blue Jays have signed former women’s national team star Ashley Stephenson as their minor league coach

Ashley Stephenson was teaching at a kids’s baseball clinic run by the Blue Jays Baseball Academy, the arm of the group chargeable for grassroots outreach, when somebody observed her expertise.

“You are actually nice at explaining issues to little children,” mentioned Geoff Holloway, a buddy who works as a software program specialist with Jez. Have you ever ever thought of skilled coaching?

Stevenson politely informed him that she had thought of it loads however did not imagine it was an choice for her. Then there was the half the place she did not say it out loud: “Yeah, man, however I am a 40-year-old girl—no one knocks on the door to rent me.”

Stephenson devoted her life to baseball (she was additionally a prime stage hockey participant). She began the game when she was 4 years outdated when her father volunteered to educate the T-ball crew. will proceed to grow to be One of the vital profitable gamers from Canada, I performed for the nationwide crew for 15 years, till I retired in 2018, and I collected plenty of gear alongside the best way. After her taking part in profession, she coached with the ladies’s nationwide crew and would achieve this perpetually to remain within the sport.

What Stephenson did not know on the time of that alternate on the clinic two summers in the past was that by a collection of fortuitous circumstances, private connections, and sure, plenty of exhausting work, she was going to land her dream job.

When blue jays Unveiling their pre-season minor league teaching workers, Stevenson might be part of as a coach with the membership’s affiliate, the Vancouver Canadiens. She turns into the group’s second feminine coach, together with Coach Jaime Vieira (now Jaime Lever) and joins a rising variety of ladies — there have been 11 in 2022 — with subject teaching jobs throughout majors and minors. It is a quantity Stephenson hopes she will help proceed to develop.

“I do know that — and it helps me a bit — if I do a very good job, I will maintain opening doorways for different ladies and I do not take it flippantly,” Stephenson mentioned. “If a person is employed and does a horrible job and will get fired, there might be 100 males behind him for a job. If females are employed and do a horrible job, persons are in all probability extra shy or reluctant to supply the following feminine a job and that’s the actuality of the job now.”

“Do I feel issues will change? Sure. However I perceive that there might be plenty of eyes inside and out of doors the group to verify I do a superb job. And I am OK with that. I will work as exhausting as I can to do my finest. I will do properly as a result of I am not going to let myself fail, principally.”

Ashley Stephenson performed for the Canadian nationwide crew for 15 years, till she retired in 2018.

As a baseball participant, Stephenson had a knack for serving to her teammates out on the sphere. She had a pointy baseball IQ and was a pure chief. Her teammates are used to listening to her voice from the left aspect of the sphere, telling them about positions or performs.

She mentioned, “Late in my profession, everybody I performed with used to smile and nod, as a result of they knew precisely what I used to be going to say earlier than I mentioned it.”

Even when an internship appeared like a great profession path, Stevenson mentioned “by no means in 1,000,000 years” had she anticipated a job with a serious group. In any case, greater than a decade in the past, it wasn’t extraordinary for girls to have subject teaching jobs, whereas alternatives in ladies’s baseball weren’t full-time. So Stephenson pursued educating as an alternative, changing into a highschool bodily training trainer, a job she liked and allowed her to educate highschool children whereas taking part in for the nationwide crew throughout the summer season.

“Actually, I in all probability received into educating as a result of I really like teaching,” she mentioned. “It’s extremely comparable. The distinction is on the main league or professional stage, they’re elite and so they’re targeted and so they in all probability simply have just a few targets or some extra route than highschool children.”

Earlier than being employed, Stevenson was no stranger to the Blue Jays’ group. Born in Mississauga, Ont. She grew up throughout the golden days of the early Nineteen Nineties and remembered driving along with her mother of their automobile and honking her horn when the Blue Jays received the World Collection. As an grownup, she had been a coach at team-run clinics for at the least 10 years, however noticed these alternatives as a enjoyable technique to earn extra money whereas growing the sport, particularly amongst women, slightly than a check for a future place.

Actually, in 2019, Stevenson closed the e book principally about pursuing a profession in skilled baseball. That yr, she attended the Take the Subject convention in San Diego, an occasion designed to get extra ladies concerned in subject jobs. Stephenson listened to Rachel Palkovic, now a minor league supervisor with the Yankees Group, talked about her grueling street to touchdown with a serious league crew which included an episode the place She slept on a mattress that she present in an Amsterdam garbage bin.

She marveled at Balkovec’s inspiring perseverance, but additionally thought to herself: “I am not doing it.” Stevenson had a profession, a house, and a household—and sacrificing all of that for what nonetheless appeared like a slim probability at a job wasn’t engaging.

“I felt just a little ashamed that I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice all the pieces for the prospect to do it,” she mentioned. After which every time I thought of it, I used to be like, ‘I do not know many guys who would ever sacrifice all the pieces. “

Two years later, Stephenson was reluctant to attend the conference once more, however Elizabeth Bean, director of main league operations for the New York Mets who helps run the occasion, inspired Stephenson to attend because it was being held approx. Bean requested the individuals to ship in a resume and canopy letter, so Stephenson shortly received considered one of them collectively, one thing she later felt ashamed of when she knowledgeable Bean to the group she was handing out to groups throughout the league.

“Perhaps I ought to have given extra time to that,” Stevenson thought.

Her resume landed him with Blue Jays assistant normal supervisor Joe Sheehan and got here with a suggestion from Benn, who had additionally crossed paths with Stevenson whereas rising up taking part in baseball in Toronto. Inside days, TJ Burton, the Blue Jays’ director of newbie baseball, talked about Stevenson as a powerful teaching candidate after attending to know her by clinics. It was two unconnected indicators without delay. So Sheehan discovered extra concerning the professional candidate — and Canadian — who has to this point been working beneath his nostril unnoticed.

Sheehan reached out to Stevenson, who at first could not imagine her telephone rang. Perhaps her buddy Holloway was dishonest on her, she thought. However he was really a Blue Jays govt on the telephone. She was frank with Sheehan, explaining that she would love an opportunity, “However I am unable to flip my complete life the wrong way up until it is good.” Sheehan stayed in contact and shortly after, started speaking to extra individuals within the group, together with Director of Participant Improvement, Joe Sclafani.

“What units her aside is her development mindset, how humble she is, she’s achieved loads within the sport and she or he’s clearly very obsessed with it and you’ll really feel that on the telephone and plenty of the workers felt that too,” mentioned Sclafani. “He was asking plenty of questions, actually sensible questions.”

The talks finally led to Stephenson being invited to spend every week on the Participant Improvement Complicated in Dunedin, Florida, working with the Florida Complicated League Blue Jays on the junior stage. It was type of a right down to earth encounter. In the meantime, Stevenson wished to know if it was proper for her, too.

Final July, Stephenson managed the ladies’s nationwide crew by a collection of pleasant exhibitions in opposition to the US, and some days later she headed to Dunedin. She absorbed as a lot as she may about working with a minor league crew, typically sitting subsequent to supervisor Jose Mayorga throughout video games to realize as a lot data as doable.

“Something I may do for the week, I did, and it was nice. That is simply type of cemented it for me,” she mentioned. “Worry of the unknown. I used to be like, I do not know, I feel I like baseball, but when it is all I do, do I adore it the identical method? I do not know. I have not had an opportunity to do this. Then I’m going down there, and I am like, ‘Wow, this Wonderful – that is precisely what I wish to do.”

That was excellent news for the Blue Jays household.

Mentioned Sklafani: “As we debriefed afterwards with our workers who’re right here, it turned clear in a short time that she made a very constructive impression, was very shiny and was a superb cultural event for us.”

The membership put her on the prime of their record of potential hires, and by the autumn Stephenson had joined the fold and was assigned to Vancouver, a stage the membership thought can be a superb problem, with their wants met. Geographically talking, additionally it is a great place to permit her to remain in Canada. It is nonetheless an essential cross-country transfer for her, her associate, and their canines, however her family and friends are already planning their West Coast holidays.

She is going to be a part of Brent Lavallee’s workers because the Canadiens’ fourth head coach, and whereas her obligations are nonetheless winding down, Stephenson expects to assist out on protection, base hitting, and coach first base, together with all the pieces else that is wanted.

“I do know I … if I do a very good job, I’ll proceed to open doorways for different ladies,” mentioned Stevenson.

Whereas teaching younger skilled gamers by a 132-game season might be a brand new problem, Stephenson has years of expertise teaching highschool baseball, subject hockey, and subject hockey—girls and boys—together with time spent within the classroom.

Those that coached alongside Stephenson with the ladies’s nationwide crew mentioned she brings energy to the job however is calm beneath strain. Patricia Landry, an assistant coach, famous that Stephenson is a straightforward collaborator, open to suggestions and at all times seeking to enhance. Her communication expertise, particularly when talking to gamers, stand out, mentioned assistant coach Kate Psota, who famous that Stephenson is aware of when to press, when to carry again, and when to interrupt the “trainer’s voice”.

“The most effective factor about Ash is that she will not costume something for you, however she’ll be trustworthy with you, and I feel the gamers can actually respect that as properly,” mentioned Psota, a former nationwide crew participant who knew Stevenson higher than that. from 20 years outdated. “She would not say all the pieces she desires to listen to, however she does say what she desires to listen to.”

Stephenson won’t coach the nationwide program in 2023 however hasn’t dominated that out sooner or later. Though her teammates will miss her, they’re completely happy to see her get this lengthy deserved alternative and have the ability to proceed to advance the sport for girls.

“Ash might be a terrific host for that…not only for myself and the individuals all of us play for inside the Nationwide Program however past,” mentioned Hannah Martensen, assistant coach. “I feel that actually extends broadly to the broader neighborhood, and in the event you can see it, you might be some type of factor. Children go to a Vancouver Canadiens sport, and so they see Ash on the market on the sphere, I feel that claims loads.”

As for Stevenson, she mentioned she believes her ardour, communication and work ethic will set her up for achievement with the Canadians.

“I do know I will work exhausting,” Stevenson mentioned. “I’ve at all times labored exhausting and I wish to be good – I wish to be a superb coach. I wish to go on the market and show myself and ensure the Jays are pleased with the particular person they employed and the blokes know I would like the most effective for them and I do know I actually wish to assist them get the place they wish to be.”

Her final educating day might be in early February, after which she’s going to fly to Dunedin for spring coaching. She was naturally nervous concerning the profession change, however just lately, those that are excited have principally been changed. She mentioned that is how you recognize she’s prepared.

“I do not anticipate it to be straightforward in any method, however teaching isn’t straightforward,” she mentioned. “It would not matter what you prepare, it is by no means going to be straightforward. So there might be some bumps within the street, I am positive of that, however I am assured I might be an asset to the crew and the group so long as I persist with who I’m and what I am good at and the issues I imagine in.” “.

(Picture courtesy of the Toronto Blue Jays.)

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