Friday, 24 July 2020

Women In Baseball Week - Part 3

The woman to left hard at work in helping the Chicago Cubs get better at the plate is Cubs' hitting lab tech and coach Rachel Folden. Hired the same day as the Yankees hired Rachel Balkovic in 2019, she's stepped into her role at Wrigley Field in a big way as she's a stats nerd and loves to build spreadsheets from data. That doesn't mean Folden's out there "moneyballing" the Cubs to another World Series championship, but the four-time All-American from Marshall notices the details that others may miss when it comes to swinging the bat which is why the former catcher is now working with the Cubs on improving and refining swing mechanics at the highest level of baseball!

Take nothing away from Folden's career as a competitive softball player, though. She was constantly working on her own game, leading her to a five-year stint with the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch league where she was behind the plate for Jennie Finch's perfect game! Her work alongside Justin Stone, now the Cubs' director of hitting, led Stone to recommend Folden for the job, and she's used video, technology, and her dedication to detail to help the Cubs find added batting average points for hitters in the Cubs' system!

In saying that, today's player I want to highlight who is making an impact on the ice at the Canada West level while playing catcher for the Canadian Women's National Baseball Team is Mount Royal goaltender Kaitlyn Ross! The rookie netminder has played at the highest baseball levels for a long time in Alberta, and her attention to detail regarding her mechanics on the ice saw her help the Cougars to new heights in 2019-20 as Ross backstopped the Cougars to their first-ever U SPORTS Top Ten ranking as well as helping them capture a Canada West silver medal and attend the U SPORTS National Championship for the first time ever in program history! Ross had the second-lowest goals-against average this season at 1.14, the third-highest save percentage at .943 in allowing just 12 goals this season, and tied for fifth with four shutouts while grabbing the starter's role from her two netminding partners while posting an 8-3-0 record in her eleven appearances!

Ross grew up in Redcliff, Alberta and played baseball in Medicine Hat where she quickly made a name for herself with the AAA Thunder, Majestics, and Knights in the city. Her work behind the plate attracted the attention of Team Alberta where she established herself as the everyday catcher thanks to her cannon of an arm and her fearless efforts in keeping the ball in front of her. She has won the Alberta colours seven times at Nationals as a catcher already, and has been named the top catcher in three of those tournaments including the 2019 tournament. This is her third season with the Canadian Women's National Baseball Team, and there's no doubt she'll be a fixture on this roster for years to come.

"She's a stabilizing force behind the dish," Medicine Hat K of C Knights coach Lane Aman praised. "She thinks the game really well, she throws it well. She's just a good catcher, but moreso just that stabilizing force, that baseball sense that she has is the most elite part of game."

Like Folden, it seems that Ross's efforts as a student of the game are serving her well, and her work both as a catcher and a goaltender complement one another on the field and the ice as it's all about keeping the ball or puck in front of her. Judging by her work on the diamond and in the crease, it seems Ross might be one of the best at both positions that this country has to offer, and it seems she only has room to get better as she continues to push herself to be better in both sports.

If you missed the other articles, I highly suggest that you head back and read about former UBC Thunderbirds forward Amanda Asay and current Alberta Pandas forward Madison Willan as these two dual-sport athletes are helping Canada excel on the diamond while also starring for Canada West hockey teams. There's a ton of talent being showcased every night at the Canada West women's hockey level, and I hope that you'll get a chance to see these three women play some exceptional ball or come out to a rink near you to catch them at their bests in the winter!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: