Sydney Leroux is best known for her soccer skills, but she’s on her way to baseball’s Little League Hall of Excellence.
The Surrey-raised athlete will be in South Williamsport, Pa., in August to receive the honour, which acknowledges her time with Whalley Little League’s Major Allstars team of 2002.
The squad almost made it to Williamsport that year, but struck out in the Canadian championships.
“They got close – that team was a really good one,” Sandi Leroux, Sydney’s mom, said on Wednesday. “They played together from when they were really little, so they all knew each other growing up. They had a really good bond.”
At the time, Sydney was known for her speed on the bases and in the outfield.
Today, she’s a fixture on the U.S. women’s soccer team, having won a Women’s World Cup and an Olympic gold medal with the squad, and plays for FC Kansas City of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). The dual citizen lives there with husband Dom Dwyer, also a pro soccer player, and their nine-month-old son.
Leroux’s Hall of Excellence award, the highest honour Little League International can bestow, was announced by the organization on Tuesday.
Stated Stephen D. Keener, Little League president and CEO: “Sydney’s dedciation to the development of young women and her ability to provide a positive influence to young children from all over the world reflects the key virtues that our Hall of Excellence enshrinees are to portray.”
Sydney played baseball in Whalley from 1995 to 2004.
“It’s such an honour for Little League to think of me after all these years, even knowing there are so many male baseball players that could have been honoured,” Sydney said in a press statement.
“Those were some of the best days of my life, and it feels like just yesterday,” she continued. “I had so many happy memories. I had some great coaches in Little League and I can thank them for believing in me at such a young age. I lost a father figure, Joe Burns, that did so much for Whalley Little League, and I know he would be so proud that Little League is honouring me.”
Sandi recalls registering Sydney for baseball after watching a girl pitch for Japan at the Little League tourney.
Sydney was also busy on the soccer pitch, which resulted in some frequent road trips.
“When she was trying out with the 12-year-old boys, the coaches said they didn’t want her playing both sports,” recalled Sandi, who still lives in Surrey. “And we didn’t tell them, so I was running back and forth from Victoria, back to Surrey for her to try out, back to Victoria, it was crazy, but I didn’t tell either coach. It just so happened that it worked out good and they had different times. I still don’t know how we managed to do that.”
In her day, Sandi played third base for the Canadian national softball team, and Sydney’s father, Ray Chadwick, played a season with MLB’s then-California Angels in 1986.
Baseball was in Sydney’s blood, but it was soccer that took her to international fame.
“Throughout her professional career, Ms. Leroux has since become an advocate for equality and is able to use her platform on the (U.S. women’s national team) as a way to inspire young girls like her to follow their dreams,” stated Little League International.
Along the way, Sydney had to compete with boys all the time, her mom said.
“She had to be better than the boys because she’s a girl, she had to prove herself all the time,” said Sandi. “She had to be tough, so she was always competitive with boys growing up.”
Leroux will be the fifth woman enshrined in the Little League Hall of Excellence, and just the second Canadian.
The ceremony for Leroux will take place on Aug. 21, during this year’s Little League Baseball World Series. A second honouree for 2017 is Champ Pederson, motivational speaker and brother of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson.