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Pitcher puts herself ‘out there’ for the opportunities
Holly Denny is a Rebel with a cause.
The 20-year-old Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia’s Waycobah First Nation is currently showcasing her softball talents Down Under.
Denny, a pitcher, is toiling with Australia’s Glenelg Rebels, a club that competes in a league called A Grade.
Glenelg is a suburb of Adelaide, the capital of the state known as South Australia.
While in Australia, Denny is also suiting up for the South Australia Starz, a select team that plays monthly matches against other clubs representing the various states in the country.
Denny landed in Australia because of a little bit of investigative work on her part.
“I Googled Softball Australia and emailed a coach,” she said. “They were interested and we worked some things out then.”
Denny arrived in Australia on Oct. 20 and is scheduled to stay until April 5, 2012.
The Rebels’ season began in late October and continues until March.
Denny’s expenses for the trip and her accommodations are being covered by the Aussies. In return, besides playing, Denny provides pitching clinics for those in the Rebels’ organization.
“They haven’t had a pitcher come in and help them with details so this is working well for both sides,” Denny said, adding many in Australia have a different style of throwing and she’s working on mechanics with athletes to improve their pitching speed.
Denny believes the calibre of women’s softball in Australia is a tad better than the quality in Canada.
“I would consider it maybe a little bit stronger than senior women’s softball in Canada,” she said. “The program that allows the states to play each other at the end of each month really contributes to producing great players for Australia. In Canada it’s a little different where you don’t really get to see the very top players compete at the end of each month.”
While growing up in Nova Scotia, Denny played for numerous softball teams. A highlight was representing her province at the 2009 Canada Summer Games in Prince Edward Island.
For the past six years Denny has also suited up for the Red Nation Jets, an Alberta-based women’s club that participates in the annual Canadian Native Fastball Championships.
The Jets captured the 2010 national title. The club also placed second at this year’s national tournament, which was held in Winnipeg in late July and early August.
Instead of just participating in the nationals in 2012, the Jets, whose roster includes athletes from various provinces, plan to play together throughout the summer.
Denny is confident her Australian experience will be a boost for her softball career.
“I am hoping to get one step closer to becoming the best I can be,” she said. “I believe it will help me since it is an off-season training time for me if I were in Canada.”
Denny is hoping to play a high level of ball for a few more years.
“I’d like to play at a competitive level until I am 24- 25- years old,” she said. “There is a lot I need to work on and I haven’t hit the best I can be yet. So after I hit the best I can be that might be when I am 25.”
Denny started playing backyard baseball when she was rather young. Then, at age 12, she turned to softball.
“I was a catcher first,” she said. “Then I picked up a ball before a game and tried pitching. I was horrible but determined to become better.”
Denny attended Wekoqmaq Mikmaqewey School but it didn’t offer any high school sports.
“You really have to step outside your box to get where you want to go because it definitely won’t be coming to you,” she said.
Denny believes Aboriginal athletes living in rural areas, like herself, need to be proactive to play organized sports. So she has some advice for others.
“Define what you want and chase it,” she said. “Put your name out there because more than likely nobody is going to know who you are.”
Though she’s been in Australia for more than a month now, Denny said she’s also still trying to adjust to certain words people in that country use. For example, tea means dinner and a jumper is a sweater.
Denny added post-game etiquette is also different. Instead of saying “Good game” to an opponent, it’s customary to simply say “Thanks.”
As for getting around, that’s an experience in itself for Denny.
“The whole driving scene is crazy,” she said. “Being on the driver’s side and driving on the opposite side of the road was scary for me at first. After I got off the plane and got into the car, I could barely look at the road because it felt like cars were coming at me.”
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