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.”

Just Posted

New West mayor says Surrey won’t be left out in transit 10-year plan

Jonathan Cote one of two speakers at luncheon focusing on transportation, land use planning

UPDATE: Missing Surrey snowshoer found dead on Mt. Seymour

North Shore Rescue resumed its search today after efforts were temporarily halted Tuesday due to snowstorm

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside North Delta elementary school

The officer was intervening in an alleged assault outside of Immaculate Conception School when he and the woman were stabbed

Suspect charged after four Surrey banks were robbed in just four hours

Financial institutions in North Surrey targeted on Feb. 12

Surrey says WorkSafeBC should be in charge of asbestos abatement

City staff say WorkSafeBC has ‘greater knowledge, experience and expertise’ concerning asbestos

VIDEO: Nail-biter game against Germany tonight earns Langley’s Team Canada a win

Langley’s Team Tardi is 5-2 at the junior curling worlds in Nova Scotia, hoping to defend their title

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Manitoba ‘pauses’ link with ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell after allegations

Campbell had been hired to review two major hydro projects

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Man injured in police shooting near Nelson has died: B.C. police watchdog

The death follows an incident in Bonnington on Feb. 13

Experts urge caution after 10 human-triggered avalanches across B.C.

One man is still stuck after avalanche on south coast

Most Read

l -->