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

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

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

Stevenson politely advised him that she had considered it lots however did not consider 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 lady—no one knocks on the door to rent me.”

Stephenson devoted her life to baseball (she was additionally a high degree hockey participant). She began the game when she was 4 years previous when her father volunteered to educate the T-ball group. will proceed to change into Some of the profitable gamers from Canada, I performed for the nationwide group for 15 years, till I retired in 2018, and I collected loads of tools alongside the way in which. After her taking part in profession, she coached with the ladies’s nationwide group and would accomplish that eternally to remain within the sport.

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

When blue jays Unveiling their pre-season minor league teaching workers, Stevenson will probably 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. This can be a quantity Stephenson hopes she might help proceed to develop.

“I do know that — and it helps me a bit — if I do a very good job, I’ll preserve 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 will probably be 100 males behind him for a job. If females are employed and do a horrible job, persons are most likely extra shy or reluctant to supply the following feminine a job and that’s the actuality of the job now.”

“Do I believe issues will change? Sure. However I perceive that there will probably be loads of eyes inside and outdoors the group to verify I do an excellent job. And I am OK with that. I’ll work as onerous as I can to do my greatest. I’ll do properly as a result of I am not going to let myself fail, principally.”

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

As a baseball participant, Stephenson had a knack for serving to her teammates out on the sector. 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 sector, 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 spite of everything, 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 instructing as an alternative, turning into a highschool bodily schooling trainer, a job she beloved and allowed her to educate highschool children whereas taking part in for the nationwide group through the summer time.

“Actually, I most likely bought into instructing as a result of I like teaching,” she mentioned. “It’s totally comparable. The distinction is on the main league or professional degree, they’re elite and so they’re centered and so they most likely simply have a number of targets or some extra path than highschool children.”

Earlier than being employed, Stevenson was no stranger to the Blue Jays’ group. Born in Mississauga, Ont. She grew up through the golden days of the early Nineteen Nineties and remembered driving together with her mother of their automobile and honking her horn when the Blue Jays received the World Sequence. As an grownup, she had been a coach at team-run clinics for a minimum of 10 years, however noticed these alternatives as a enjoyable strategy to earn more cash whereas creating the sport, particularly amongst women, quite than a take a look at for a future place.

In truth, in 2019, Stevenson closed the e-book principally about pursuing a profession in skilled baseball. That 12 months, she attended the Take the Discipline 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 group 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 in addition 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 enticing.

“I felt a bit ashamed that I wasn’t keen to sacrifice every little thing for the prospect to do it,” she mentioned. After which every time I considered it, I used to be like, ‘I do not know many guys who would ever sacrifice every little thing. “

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 members to ship in a resume and canopy letter, so Stephenson rapidly bought one in every 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.

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

Her resume landed him with Blue Jays assistant common 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 beginner baseball, talked about Stevenson as a robust teaching candidate after attending to know her by clinics. It was two unconnected indicators directly. So Sheehan discovered extra in regards to the professional candidate — and Canadian — who has thus far been working beneath his nostril unnoticed.

Sheehan reached out to Stevenson, who at first could not consider her telephone rang. Possibly her good friend 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 can not flip my complete life the wrong way up except it is good.” Sheehan stayed in contact and shortly after, started speaking to extra folks within the group, together with Director of Participant Growth, Joe Sclafani.

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

The talks ultimately led to Stephenson being invited to spend per week on the Participant Growth Advanced in Dunedin, Florida, working with the Florida Advanced League Blue Jays on the junior degree. It was form of a all the way down to earth encounter. In the meantime, Stevenson needed to know if it was proper for her, too.

Final July, Stephenson managed the ladies’s nationwide group by a sequence of pleasant exhibitions towards the USA, and some days later she headed to Dunedin. She absorbed as a lot as she may about working with a minor league group, usually sitting subsequent to supervisor Jose Mayorga throughout video games to realize as a lot information as doable.

“Something I may do for the week, I did, and it was nice. That is simply form of cemented it for me,” she mentioned. “Worry of the unknown. I used to be like, I do not know, I believe I like baseball, but when it is all I do, do I adore it the identical means? I do not know. I have never had an opportunity to do this. Then I am going down there, and I am like, ‘Wow, this Wonderful – that is precisely what I need 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 an excellent cultural event for us.”

The membership put her on the high of their listing of potential hires, and by the autumn Stephenson had joined the fold and was assigned to Vancouver, a degree the membership thought can be an excellent problem, with their wants met. Geographically talking, it’s also a great place to permit her to remain in Canada. It is nonetheless an essential cross-country transfer for her, her companion, and their canine, however her family and friends are already planning their West Coast holidays.

She is going to be part of Brent Lavallee’s workers because the Canadiens’ fourth head coach, and whereas her duties are nonetheless winding down, Stephenson expects to assist out on protection, base hitting, and coach first base, together with every little thing 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 will probably 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 group mentioned she brings energy to the job however is calm beneath stress. Patricia Landry, an assistant coach, famous that Stephenson is a simple collaborator, open to suggestions and at all times trying 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 perfect factor about Ash is that she will not costume something for you, however she’ll be sincere with you, and I believe the gamers can actually respect that as properly,” mentioned Psota, a former nationwide group participant who knew Stevenson higher than that. from 20 years previous. “She does not say every little thing she desires to listen to, however she does say what she desires to listen to.”

Stephenson is not going to coach the nationwide program in 2023 however hasn’t dominated that out sooner or later. Though her teammates will miss her, they’re comfortable to see her get this lengthy deserved alternative and be capable to proceed to advance the sport for girls.

“Ash will probably be an amazing host for that…not only for myself and the folks all of us play for inside the Nationwide Program however past,” mentioned Hannah Martensen, assistant coach. “I believe that basically extends broadly to the broader neighborhood, and should you can see it, you will be some form of factor. Youngsters go to a Vancouver Canadiens sport, and so they see Ash on the market on the sector, I believe that claims lots.”

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

“I do know I’ll work onerous,” Stevenson mentioned. “I’ve at all times labored onerous and I need to be good – I need to be an excellent coach. I need to go on the market and show myself and ensure the Jays are happy with the particular person they employed and the blokes know I need the very best for them and I do know I actually need to assist them get the place they need to be.”

Her final instructing day will probably be in early February, after which she is going to fly to Dunedin for spring coaching. She was naturally nervous in regards to the profession change, however not too long ago, those that are excited have principally been changed. She mentioned that is how you already know she’s prepared.

“I do not anticipate it to be straightforward in any means, however teaching is rarely straightforward,” she mentioned. “It does not matter what you prepare, it is by no means going to be straightforward. So there will probably be some bumps within the street, I am certain of that, however I am assured I will be an asset to the group and the group so long as I follow who I’m and what I am good at and the issues I consider in.” “.

(Photograph courtesy of the Toronto Blue Jays.)

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