With a pair of careers that embodied the essence of sporting equality, the retirement of luminaries of Katie Psota, 32, and Ashley Stephenson, 36, has left a lasting legacy for the Canadian national women’s baseball team. Such a visceral decision follows the retirements of Nicole Luchansky, and team manager André Lachance, whose post shall be assumed by former pitching coach Aaron Myette.
Representing a significant part of the team’s leadership corps, each having joined in 2004, the careers of this distinguished duo not only ran parallel, they simultaneously emerged as two of the most notable women in Canadian baseball.
Having both played women’s ice hockey for the Golden Hawks of Wilfrid Laurier University, where Stephenson was recognized as an All-Canadian, their heroics on the ice were merely prologue for an outstanding run on the diamond, including six podium finishes at the IBAF Women’s World Cup of Baseball, attaining silver in 2008 and 2016, while the years 2004, 2006, 2012 and 2018 resulted in bronze.
At the 2008 edition of the World Cup, Stephenson, who led all players with five stolen bases, was named to the Tournament All-Star Team at Third Base. In that same year, she gained the national team’s MVP Award, the second of her career, with the first in 2005. Another notable honor followed in 2011, as she and Psota captured Baseball Canada’s Jimmy Rattlesnake Award.
Worth noting, Psota has also enjoyed a haul of baseball hardware, capturing national team MVP Awards in 2009 and 2010. Akin to Stephenson, she also enjoyed IBAF World Cup Tournament All-Star Team honors. Both in recognition for her play at first base, Psota gained the honors in 2010 and 2012.
Of note, their greatest glory took place in 2015. With Toronto serving as host city of the Pan American Games, the privilege of wearing Canada’s colors on home soil was only eclipsed by the sense of history.
As women’s baseball was a medal event for the first time in Pan Am Games history, it allowed an entire nation the opportunity to catch up to the greatness of the sport, while appreciating the brilliance of its diamond heroes. For Psota and Stephenson, who had also been veteran players on the Canadian rosters that participated in the first eight World Cups, it was a satisfying moment that not only validated their careers, but propelled them to new heights of relevance.
Qualifying for the gold medal game, the Canadians competed against their eternal rivals from the United States. Considering that Canada’s men’s baseball team also reached the gold medal game, baseball certainly stirred the strong feeling of national pride among sporting enthusiasts.
While she played for the national baseball team, Stephenson, a member of the Golden Hawks Hall of Fame, who is occupied full-time as a physical education teacher, also remained prominent in professional women’s ice hockey.
Playing for the Brampton Thunder, Canada’s longest running club team in women’s ice hockey, she gained a podium finish as a member of the Mississauga Chiefs at the 2008 Esso Women’s Hockey Nationals. Later competing in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, she became intertwined with league history during the 2011-12 season.
Skating for the Burlington Barracudas, which proved to be their final season, she scored the last game-winning goal in franchise history. The following season, Stephenson joined the coaching staff of Sommer West (who was the Barracudas captain in 2011-12) with the Toronto Furies, qualifying for the 2013 Clarkson Cup playoffs.
Coaching shall remain a focus for Stephenson, who will serve in that capacity with Canada’s national women’s baseball team. In addition, she shall serve on the World Softball Baseball Confederation (WBSC) Athletes Commission, the only Canadian elected in 2018. As a side note, Stephenson also holds significant coaching experience on the diamond. Along with teammate Autumn Mills, both were instructors at the Tornoot Blue Jays Baseball Academy in 2015.
Undoubtedly, the most recent World Cup (2018), provided Psota and Stephenson with an element of satisfaction, setting the stage for a sensational finish to their careers. Challenging their American archrivals in the bronze medal game, a highly dramatic extra innings finish resulted in an 8-5 victory.
Playing at her usual spot of first base, Psota was in the batting order as the clean-up hitter, with one hit in three at-bats. Stephenson was seventh in the order, garnering a pair of RBIs in a day that saw her go 2-for-4.
Avenging their loss from the Pan American Games, it was the kind of victory that may signify an essential transition in the history of the Canadian program, able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their rivals, while demonstrating a possible rise towards even greater glories.