White Rock’s Groenewegen balances pro, Team Canada commitments

White Rock’s Groenewegen balances pro, Team Canada commitments

Elgin Park Secondary grad playing for Akron Racers in first pro fastpitch season

Sara Groenewegen can be forgiven this summer if she doesn’t know if she’s coming or going.

Or, more specifically – where she is going. And what fastpitch uniform she’s supposed to wear when she gets there.

The summer softball season is always busy for the 22-year-old Semiahmoo Peninsula pitcher – a former White Rock Renegade star who has played with Canada’s national program since 2013 – but this year has been especially exhausting. Groenewegen has moved seamlessly, and without more than a few days off, from the completion of her final NCAA season at the University of Minnesota to her pro debut with the Akron Racers to joining up with the national team at the Canada Cup, which was held earlier this month in South Surrey.

When the Canada Cup wrapped up July 17, she boarded a plane bound for Texas, where she was to meet up with her Akron teammates, and she’ll spend much of this summer balancing the Racers’ National Pro Fastpitch schedule with her Team Canada itinerary, which includes trips to the Dominican Republic and Japan.

“It’s been a very different summer… it’s been crazy,” she told Peace Arch News earlier this month, during a break in her Canada Cup schedule.

“Three different teams, three different environments, lots of travel – it takes its toll on you,” she said.

“It’s always an adjustment – I’ve played on three teams in the matter of a month, so it’s always just a matter of adjusting back to the team you’re on, but I’ve settled in.”

Originally, Groenewegen wasn’t expected at her home tournament in South Surrey – Canada Cup organizer Greg Timm told PAN in June that he didn’t expect her to make the trip due to her new pro commitments – but at the last minute, Racers’ brass decided to accommodate their star rookie’s busy schedule.

“(Team Canada head coach Mark) Smith thought it would be a good idea to come back home… and we have a lot of pitchers on our staff (in Akron), so my team owner and manager let me leave for a week-and-a-half,” she said.

“There’s nothing like playing at home, and it’s definitely something I didn’t want to miss.”

Groenewegen was the Racers’ first-round pick – second overall – in the U.S.-based National Pro Fastpitch league draft in the spring, and joined the team immediately following her college season’s end.

Over four seasons at Minnesota, the Elgin Park Secondary grad was among the top pitchers in the entire NCAA. In her senior season, which ended in late May, Groenewegen finished with a 31-4 win-loss record, an earned-run average of just 0.63 and 307 strikeouts in 211.2 innings pitched.

“I didn’t even get more than a week off, I just finished (at Minnesota), packed everything up and went to Ohio,” she explained, adding that she will return to the Minneapolis campus in the fall to complete the final year of classes she needs to graduate with a degree in sports management.

“I’m enjoying it, but it’s just a lot different. You’re playing against teams who have All-Americans one-through-nine in their lineup, so it’s incredibly competitive. It’s hard, and I haven’t had much success yet – whether that’s just because I’m a rookie or because these hitters are the best in the world, I’m not sure. It’s been very challenging for me as a pitcher, but I’m happy to be part of the league.”

Next week, Groenewegen’s two worlds will collide, as Team Canada travels to Ohio for a two-game exhibition series against the Racers that begins Monday.

And while Groenewegen didn’t know for whom she would suit up in the two-game showdown – Smith suggested to PAN earlier this month that she could potentially pitch one game for each team – she did expect it to be a strange situation.

“I feel like everyone’s been asking me about it, and I honestly don’t even know the answer,” she said.

“Either way, I’m going to have to pitch to teammates, which is going to be a weird experience.”

If balancing her pro and national-team duties has been a challenge for Groenewegen this summer, it’s a challenge she’ll likely have to get used to. Though she won’t play in the NCAA next year, she’ll balance her Akron commitments with a Team Canada schedule that includes the 2018 World Championships in Chiba, Japan.

And just a few years after that – the Olympics, now that softball is back on the docket for Tokyo 2020.

Groenewegen, however, is unfazed, and is, like most young players on the national team, looking forward to the chance to represent her country on the world’s biggest athletic stage. Groenewegen was just 10 years old when the sport was axed from the Games in 2005 – the vote to bump both softball and baseball was announced in the middle of that summer’s Canada Cup tournament.

“As an athlete, I think that has to be the coolest experience – to be an Olympian,” she said.

“And I think it’s definitely going to push a lot of young players to try to get to that level.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole speaks during a virtual South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce town hall on Saturday, March 6, 2021.
O’Toole says South Surrey, White Rock face ‘acute’ challenges during pandemic

Federal Conservative leader speaks at local chamber town hall

A sign encouraging COVID-19 safety steps, with the Bayside rugby clubhouse – located adjacent to Semiahmoo Secondary and the South Surrey track – in background; Jan. 6, 2021. (Photo: Tracy Holmes)
Surrey sees 2,400 new COVID-19 cases in February

This is the lowest monthly increase since last fall

Liberty roses – created by acclaimed rose breeder Brad Jalbert – will be planted in White Rock later this month. (Contributed photo)
‘Liberty Rose’ to be planted along Johnston Road and at White Rock City Hall

Poppy-like rose created by acclaimed rose breeder Brad Jalbert

South Surrey’s Kirk Arsenault has started a new company, Str8laced, that sells cleat wraps that aim to keep athletes’ shoes from coming untied during games and practices. (Contributed photo)
South Surrey sports equipment entrepreneur tying up loose ends before Alberta move

Str8laced wraps keep laces from coming loose in the middle of play, says Kirk Arsenault

Volunteers from Semiahmoo Secondary joined with members of the Lower Mainland Green Team and the White Rock and South Surrey Naturalists Wednesday to remove invasive plants from White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park. (Contributed photo)
Students, volunteers remove invasive plants from White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park

Day-long project a collaboration between city, Lower Mainland Green Team

An animated Gordie Hogg introduces his 'Community Connections' videos. (YouTube screenshot)
Community Connections: Gordie Hogg speaks with Denise Stevenson

Former mayor, MP began posting conversations on YouTube in June

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

The family of injured Willoughby resident Ronald Gerald Jesso is hoping someone saw something that will help solve the mystery of how he came to be so badly hurt on the morning of Feb. 22. Jesso is still in hospital. (Jesso family/Special to Langley Advance Times)
An appeal to help solve the mystery of an injured Langley man

Family of Ronald Gerald Jesso asks witnesses to come forward

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead on Vancouver Island in ‘targeted incident’

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Most Read