One of the most influential, yet underrated elite female athletes of her generation, it is only fitting that Samantha Magalas is among a group of empowering women taking part in the inaugural women’s baseball tournament at the 2015 Pan Am Games. Adding to her legacy is the fact that the Pan Am Games allows Magalas to make history twice.
A charter member of the Canadian national women’s baseball team, she was part of a remarkable chapter in female sporting history as she participated in the inaugural IBAF Women’s World Cup. Contested in 2004 in Edmonton, Magalas would contribute to a bronze medal performance, the first of three podium finishes in her career. Along the way, she also accumulated three National Championships with Team Ontario.
Magalas (right) speaking with a coach during the Canadian National Women’s Team tune-up tour for the 2015 Pan Am Games (Photo credit: Mark Staffieri)
Considering that the Pan Am Games are being hosted in Toronto makes this an equally compelling aspect of female sport in Canada. It also allows Magalas the chance to make history twice in her career, as the Pan Am Games represents the first time that women’s baseball is part of a major multi-sport event.
Quite possibly the most accomplished female athlete in the history of Burlington’s Assumption Secondary School, Samantha Magalas earned top athlete honours twice. Such honors were complemented by being named the City of Burlington’s Athlete of the Year in 2002 and 2004, respectively.
A four-time qualifier in OFSAA for javelin, while excelling in basketball and hockey, she would move on to York University and compete for the Lions women’s ice hockey program. Competing as a forward for the program, she also spent one game as a goaltender, making 25 saves on 31 shots. It was also at York University that her athletic abilities would make national news.
Invited by head coach Colin Cummins to try out for the York University men’s varsity baseball squad, the result was historic. She would become the first woman in North American university sports to compete in men’s baseball, starting at first base in a game on September 10, 2004. Her ability to break gender barriers in sport was akin to Manon Rheaume in hockey, Dr. Jen Welter in tackle football and Devon Wills in lacrosse.
Such athletic prodigy also ran in her family. Of note, her brothers Nick and Sebastien also earned athlete-of-the-year honours at Assumption, following up their sterling careers as members of the Toronto Varsity Blues basketball team. Their proud athletic careers also served as a form of therapy for their brave mother Susan, who received chemotherapy, along with radiation treatments at Princess Margaret Hospital in her courageous fight against cancer.
Her cousin, Carly Agro was also the recipient of the athlete of the year award at Assumption, earning an NCAA soccer scholarship with UMBC in Baltimore. As a side note, Agro has also enjoyed an exceptional career in broadcasting, currently employed with Rogers Sportsnet.
Having played first base and platooned in the outfield with the Canadian national team, Magalas is currently a member of field manager Andre Lachance’s coaching staff. Also contributing as a first base coach, she is once again contributing to breaking gender barriers, as she is helping set a precedent for women to serve as coaches.
During her time as coach, her positive influence not only ensured that Canada’s baseball future would benefit from such a key figure, it would encourage another player to pursue her dreams. Pitcher Brittany Chan would earn a bronze medal with the Canadian contingent at the 2012 IBAF Women’s World Cup. A year later, she would follow it up by trying out for the Ryerson Rams’ men’s baseball varsity team.
Earning certification as a Provincial Coach under the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP), the first coaching experience for Magalas took place during an exhibition series in Cuba. Lachance allowed Magalas the opportunity to gain valuable experience when a group of 30 bantam aged girls from Canada competed against the national women’s team from Cuba. Since 2012, she has also worked as an instructor at the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Academy (along with national team members Autumn Mills and Ashley Stephenson).
The strong leadership skills have also been developed through her efforts off the field. In years past, she served as a general manager of Frozen Ropes, a training centre in the Greater Toronto Area focused on developing skills in both baseball and softball.
Currently a Sport Coordinator with Ontario University Athletics, Magalas is helping sport, both male and female, reach its potential in the province. Having started with OUA in 2010 as a Sport Development Officer, she worked tirelessly to inform high school athletes about the benefits of varsity sport at the university level in Ontario. Such topics included enlightening potential student-athletes on opportunities such as eligibility, recruitment, scholarships, and financial aid.
Overseeing the management of sport programming services, she is working towards building positive partnerships and developing a sport model that may serve as a template throughout the rest of Canada. It is that type of assiduous effort that has mirrored her remarkable athletic career. Setting a gold standard that helped inspire a generation of young women to grace the diamond and stake their rightful claim in a traditionally male-dominated game, the fact that Magalas is still involved in the game today only adds to its growing legend. Destined to be part of the game’s growing mythology, a gold medal at the Pan Am Games would cement her legacy as a Canadian sporting icon.