Introducing Amy McCann – Australian Baseballer

32-year-old baseballer, Amy McCann, has achieved almost everything there is to achieve in the world of women’s baseball, since commencing her career as a 12-year-old at Kissing Point Angels Baseball Club in Sydney back in 1990.
Since then, McCann has gone on to represent Victoria and Australia for almost a decade, and has an honours list which would rival any Australian baseballer, male or female, including;

  • 2010 Silver Medallist – IBAF World Championships
  • 2006 ABF Female Player of the Year
  • 2006 World Cup All Star Team
  • 2004 World Series All Star team
  • Member of 2002 World Series Champion

Amy has recently been kind enough to answer a series of questions for the readers of Pen & Paper Sports Blog.

Firstly Amy, thanks for taking some time to answer a few questions about baseball, your career and life in general. First question, why the wonderful game of baseball?

I was always playing sports that involved hitting things – I was always in the street or in the park, hitting any kind of sports ball I could find with any type of bat – cricket, baseball, tennis, fence paling.

I had tried my hand at tennis, cricket, tee ball and softball in primary school, but none of them really caught my interest.

But then one day, my dad was reading the TV guide and noted that the Major League Baseball game of the week was on at 1am on Channel 9 and asked if I wanted it recorded (on VHS that is)! I watched it and I was hooked.

You began your career as a 12-year-old in Sydney, however I believe it took quite some time to find a Club which could accommodate female players. I can imagine this was quiet frustrating, do you remember the feelings you experienced during that period?

It was really depressing . After watching the MLB game, I asked my dad to look for a baseball club at which I could play. So he looked in every local newspaper and started calling clubs all around the area.

And there was certainly no shortage of baseball clubs back in the early 1990s in Australia as they were still feeling the benefits of the 80s tee ball boom and the Australian Baseball League had just begun.

But for me, that’s where the hard part started. Instead of walking into my local club, paying my fees, getting my uniform and getting out onto the field, I was continually knocked back by five clubs I tried to join.

My Dad was awesome trying and ringing so many different clubs. It didn’t matter how far he had to drive me, he did. And he finally found one. Although was 45 minutes drive from my house, I didn’t care. I got to play baseball. (Special thanks to the Kissing Point Angels Baseball Club in Turramurra for giving me my start!).

As a 12yo, I played against men my fathers age in the winter, and an aged junior league in the summer.

When you eventually did settle at Kissing Point Angels, how many female baseballers were playing at the Club and do you still speak/see any of them nowadays?

There were no women in the entire league in which I was playing in winter. In the summer league, I had two other girls at my club and a few other in the league which we played against.

No, I don’t see them anymore. Just drifted apart I guess. I moved to Canberra out of high school to complete University and then straight to Melbourne out of
Uni.

Moving to Melbourne must have been a tough decision given you were still relatively young at the time. Can you explain some of the sacrifices you made, and some of the hardships (if any) you endured?

Not really… I love Melbourne!

You became a long-time member of the Doncaster Baseball Club, how valuable were they in your development and who was your biggest influence during your time there?

The Doncaster BC has the best women’s program in the world. We develop our local talent from the junior ages – one of the very few clubs to do s0 – and we have a great crop of juniors ready to come in and take over the sports held by old farts like me!

We have produced a dozen Australian women’s team members in just on ten years now, and countless Victorian reps. I think the reasons that the club is so big, so successful and has so many juniors, is for a few reasons. The support of the club, the fact we have a female coach and the fact that no player is better than any other. Whether you have played for Australia, or its your first season as a 55yo, everyone is treated the same.

Are you still playing locally, and if so, in which Grade of which Club?

In summer, we play in the Baseball Victoria State League Division 1 for women. In winter I play men’s baseball for the Watsonia Saints (as Doncaster is really a summer club).

How would you describe the standard of (above Grade) when compared to what you have experienced internationally?

The Victorian Women’s Division 1 State League games can be better than some nationals games we play. The teams at the top of the standings put on some great games week in and week out and I just wish more people came down to witness some of them. Any week you might see over 10 Australian women’s team members going head to head in a club match and you don’t really get to see that in many sports.

Have you ever considered moving overseas (ie: America, Japan etc) to play in their respective Domestic Leagues?

I lived in Tokyo, Japan for 4 months in 2005, playing for the Taiken Wellness College. Myself and two other Australian team members did so and it was trying at times, but worth it. I love the difference in Eastern and Western baseball and learning a whole different style of the game I think made us better as players.

The first three editions (2004, ’06 & ’08) of the Women’s Baseball World Championships ended in fourth placing for the Aussies each time. How disappointing was it being so close to a medal? How close did the girls come to breaking through?

2004 we were a long way from third place, and in 2006, a couple more runs in one game somewhere along in the line, and we would have walked away with a medal as bronze was decided on wins and for/against. I think we lost out by less than one run per nine innings or something.

2008 was hard to take. In the last inning of the bronze medal play off game vs the US, we had runners on base and were only down by one run and were looking good to snatch a win. But as baseball goes, they turned a remarkable double play and in a blink of an eye, we were fourth. Again.

There were lots of tears shed after that game and a few retirements too. But for those that returned, the passion to not come fourth again, combined with the energy and enthusiasm of a tonne of new young players, was the spark we needed.

In the 2010 edition, the team famously came runners-up, I would imagine the feeling of accomplishment and excitement well and truly made up for the disappointment of previous years. How big was the party?

We had our backs against it in Venezuela. After the round robin games sent those with the three best records through to the finals, we had to win the three finals round games against Japan, Cuba and the US in order to have a shot at a medal. And we did!

Knocked off Japan for the first time in World Cup history, blanked the Cubans in the second game and then inflicted one of the heaviest losses the US has ever had!

Then we played Venezuela in the play off to go into the Gold-Silver match and blanked them too. It was just amazing to know that no matter the result in the final, we had a medal. And for the four of us who had been to all three world cups prior, we were just ecstatic.

Whether this had any part in our loss in the final, I don’t know. I think we were just all exhausted from the previous 4 games and it is tough to beat Japan once in a tournament and we would have had to beat them twice! Maybe in 2012!!

The party wasn’t that big actually as we had to attend an official government party before we got back to the hotel at almost midnight and we had a 5am wake up call to catch a bus 3 hours so we could fly home!

On a personal note, which tournament did you find the most enjoyable and which tournament was your most successful, individually?

I was mainly a bench player in 2004 as I was young and new to the team but it was awesome as it was such a buzz. 2006 I was named in the All Star All World Team as an Outfielder, so that was pretty cool. 2008 I spent the immediate 8 weeks preceding the tournament working at the Beijing Olympic Games and didn’t arrive till the day the World Cup started, so was slightly under-prepared. 2010, I was happy with how I played. I am a much more wiser player now and tend to know when and where I need to, and more importantly where I don’t need to expend energy etc. All my cup experiences are just so different, but I can’t go past winning a medal. That was just CRAZY!

Looking ahead to the next World Championships, how are the Aussie girls looking? Who are the players to look out for?

We had our Nationals last April (which Victorian won – yay!) and there are a lot of good young players coming up through the ranks. A squad of 35 was named and we head to a camp in Sydney mid-August. I am slightly bias, so as far as young players go, 18yo Victorian Bronwyn Gell is the cream of the juniors. She made her debut at the World Cup last year and was superb. NSW has quite a few great young arms also and WA is doing great things with their development program too.

You’re a well-known Centre-Fielder (my position also), do you have any tips for a park-baseballer like myself? Or for other aspiring baseballers I might add!

I live by one rule in the outfield – Never give up on a ball. To me there is nothing better in baseball than running down a fly in the gap that no one on the field thinks you’re gonna get near, even yourself, and then you come up with it. You never know what you can’t get until it hits the ground!

Baseballers are traditionally a superstitious bunch… Any superstitions from your end?

I have a few nervous quirks, like I have a few things I do in my at bats each time with my gloves and bat ec before I take a pitch. But the one superstition I have is I always like to be the one that throws the ball out of the outfield at the start of the inning after warm up.

Last I heard you were working full-time at Cycling Victoria as their Communications Manager. How difficult is it juggling training and tournament commitments around a professional career?

I am actually now the Communications & Senior Project Coordinator at Cycling Australia. A few of my tasks at the moment include overseeing the Marketing and Communications for the 2012 UCI Track Cycling World Cup which is in Melbourne next April, in addition to a lot of other event marcomms work.

It’s very tough. You have to squeeze all your training in before and after work and try and get to the gym at lunch. I miss a lot of baseball over summer due to work, but I love my job and although I miss baseball, I have to think of my future.

Baseball doesn’t put food on the table, it takes it away. I have to pay $2000 each year for nationals and up to $5000 every second year for the World Cups. You add that together from when I started in 2002, and that’s a HECK of a lot of money. I am very grateful that Cycling Australia has been so good to me and my time away needed for training and nationals/world cups. I owe a lot to them.

The difference in athlete benefits (ie: Sponsorship, Funding, Payments etc) between male sport and female sport is quite extreme in most cases, especially Baseball. Are conditions improving and can you see changes in the future?

We get nothing. We have to pay to play at EVERY level of our baseball. And while most junior baseballers need to pay (or their parents do) to play rep ball, once they make ABL teams or minor league teams, they start making money. It’s not a lot at some levels, but its more than we will ever get.

That’s the thing. We have no place to go to. We can’t get signed, we can’t eek out a career in the minors or hope to get picked up by a Japanese Industrial League or a German or Czech League, we have what’s in Australia and that’s
about it.

You have the opportunity to go and play overseas like I did in 2005, but you’re very lucky if you get out of it without losing any money. You certainly won’t make any.

I unfortunately can’t see this changing. Unless a big sponsor comes on board in Japan or the US and tries to start a league again as per the late 90s in the States, it just won’t happen anywhere else.

But, for all the money I have spent and the lost weeknight and weekends, I wouldn’t trade anything to get any of it back. I do it because I love it. Simple.

Are there increasing numbers of female baseballers and if so, is the standard continually improving?

I think that the depth in Australian women’s baseball isn’t improving unfortunately. The playing numbers aren’t increasing at the rate you would want, although their has been some in roads in a more organised junior development effort from a few states.

On the elite side of things, although playing numbers aren’t going through the roof, I believe that the standard of the elite level players is rising.

For females interested in playing baseball, who should they contact?

I would call their state office, or Baseball Australia.

Finally Amy, what’s the best piece of advice you could give to any aspiring baseballer?

For a girl – don’t ever let anyone say to you that you can’t play. If they do, find somewhere else until you can.

For everyone– never lose sight of why you play the game – for fun. If you didn’t enjoy it, you wouldn’t play.

Thanks again for your time and for sharing your thoughts and experiences with Pen & Paper Sports Blog. Best of luck for the future!

DJC

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3 responses to “Introducing Amy McCann – Australian Baseballer

  1. nice interview daniel

  2. Not bad DJC. I have Kathy Welsh in my 1’s can play I like how these girls try to test themselves against the men.

  3. Excellent interview Daniel!

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