For the first time in league history, a woman will suit up in the Canadian College Baseball Conference next season, and she’ll be wearing VIU Mariners colours.
Vancouver Island University’s baseball club announced this week the signing of Alli Schroder, a right-handed pitcher from Fruitvale, B.C., for the 2021-22 season. According to Baseball Canada’s website, Schroder is the first woman to commit to a CCBC program.
The 18-year-old is a veteran of the national women’s team and helped Team Canada advance in World Cup qualifiers two summers ago.
After graduating high school last year, Schroder took a year away from school and has had limited opportunities to play baseball in a pandemic. She practised and played with the Cranbrook Bandits club team when she could, but has mostly been doing individual training, finding someone to throw to, motivated to play college ball and stay in the mix for the national team.
Schroder wanted to stay in Canada and decided that VIU was the “perfect fit” for her to study environmental science and pursue athletics.
“VIU had it all for me,” she said. “Also [being] from the other side of the province, almost, living in the Kootenays, I thought it would be a pretty cool opportunity to live on the coast for a little while.”
Mariners coach Nick Salahub said Schroder’s coach started a conversation by recommending a player and a player’s abilities before mentioning he was talking about a girl. Salahub said talking with Schroder since then has “opened [his] eyes” to thinking she’s the right candidate for doing something special that’s never been done before.
“Any time that barriers have been broken in baseball, it’s because people have been able to do things on the field that you can’t question,” the coach said. “She throws well enough and honestly, hard enough.”
VIU Mariners coach Nick Salahub: “Any time that barriers have been broken in baseball, it’s because people have been able to do things on the field that you can’t question. She throws well enough and honestly, hard enough.” (📷allischroder16/Instagram) https://t.co/Fn9ileGdjD pic.twitter.com/FE7scpSP90
— Greg Sakaki (@BulletinSports) February 22, 2021
Schroder said she’s personally been “super fortunate” in the past with being accepted on teams of boys and men – they’ve seen she can play and contribute, so gender hasn’t been an issue.
“I know that this hasn’t been the case for a lot of girls,” she said. “There’s been teams that we’ve played against that aren’t super receptive, but every team that I’ve personally played on, they’ve been awesome.”
She said coming to the VIU Mariners as a rookie, she’ll recognize her role, know that opportunities will come through work ethic, and will be ready to contribute to the team in any way she’s asked.
Her change-up and her two-seam fastball are her best pitches and she’s looking forward to seeing how she fares against CCBC batters.
“I’ve always played against big guys … you kind of just have to find your own advantages and know yourself, know how you play,” Schroder said. “I’m excited to see the competition and I’ll just have to find my place there.”
As for her place in league history, Schroder is willing to embrace the role of an advocate for women in men’s sports. Girls who play baseball sometimes switch to softball when they reach college, but Schroder said there are pathways to keep playing baseball and maybe she can “blaze a trail.”
“But at the end of the day, I’m also just a player,” she said. “I’m excited to contribute to the team any way possible and I’m more focused on just being looked at as a baseball player.”
Salahub said Schroder, coming in as a freshman, will earn the right to contribute in situations where she can help the ball club, and added that any player’s individual success tends to equate to team success.
“It’s not going to be a gimmick, it’s going to be, ‘win us a ball game here, Alli,’ and I feel confident in her ability to do that…” the coach said. “She’s one of a kind as far as what she has going for her as far as being one of the first females that I’ve seen who’s able to compete at this level, and hopefully she can set the tone and not be the only one.”