Theres nothing hed rather do

Darcy MacRae
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Stephen Mullaley is in elite company when it comes to fastpitch

Dust flies as Devin Whelan of Placentia manages to slide safely into home plate ahead of the tag by Waterford Valley catcher Adam Healey during the championship game of the squirt boys division in the 27th annual Const. William Moss Memorial minor softbal

Nobody could ever accuse Stephen Mullaley of wasting his ability.

Mullaley is one of the top up-and-coming players in North American softball and he puts his skills to the test every chance he gets. He plays locally with Iceberg Rum of the St. Johns senior league and every weekend, he suits up with the Orillia (Ont.) RiverSharks of the International Softball Congress, arguably the top fastpitch league in the world.

Hes also made two appearances with the Canadian national team in the past couple of years, leaving Mullaley with little time for anything but softball during the warm months of the year.

I love it, Mullaley said. Theres nothing Id rather do with my summer than playing ball.

Mullaley, 23, is a coachs dream. A five-tool player who hits for average as well as power, and one who possesses a strong and accurate arm in the outfield (he plays centre in the local league, but takes care of right field in the ISC and on the national squad), Mullaley improves his teams chances of winning just by stepping onto the field. So far this season Mullaley is batting .429 with three home runs and 15 RBIs in 56 at-bats for Orillia, easily placing him in the top three on his team in each category.

In his fifth year in the ISC, Mullaley has become one of the leagues big names. And whats truly remarkable is that hes only starting to realize how good he could be.

Unlimited potential, may end up being one of the games best ever, also has an outstanding personality, Orillia coach Denny Bruckert said of Mullaley on the teams website (quakerriversharks.com).

Despite the superstar status hes reached, Mullaley remains humble. A native of Freshwater who lives in St. Johns, Mullaley doesnt like to talk about his stats and admits he still gets nervous when playing against the worlds best.

Take his first game with the Canadian national team for example, when he wore the maple leaf last year in a qualifying tournament for the Pan American Games. Although he was the teams starting right fielder, Mullaley still felt he had a lot to prove to his teammates and couldnt quite believe his situation.

I was nervous. It was the worst case of nerves I ever had playing ball, for sure, Mullaley said. But now ... I can relax a bit and just play ball.

Sitting at Lions Park Wednesday evening during an intermediate game between C.B.S. and St. Johns Racing and Entertainment, Mullaley glances at the players on the field, but never really takes a good look at the action. Its not that he isnt interested in the tilt, he knows players on both teams, its just that he has a hard time enjoying the sport as a fan because the competitive juices start flowing the minute he sees players take the field.

I can watch it to study it at tournaments, watching pitchers and hitters, Mullaley said. But I dont watch it for entertainment. I want to play too bad.

Considering the high levels at which hes played, Mullaley couldnt be blamed if he had a hard time getting up for a mid-week, regular season game in the local senior league. But as anyone who knows him will attest, its simply not in Mullaleys nature to take it easy in any softball game, regardless of where its played.

Once Im on the field Im ready to go, Mullaley said. I really enjoy playing ... Id play in my backyard if I could.

Mullaley will practically be playing in his backyard next month when St. Johns hosts the Canadian senior mens softball championships. He said hes playing for a Newfoundland team at the event, but resisted the temptation to name exactly who hell suit up with. However, he did reveal his squad should be stacked and said he is excited about playing in front of a hometown crowd.

Having everybody cheer for you rather than against you (will be the best part), Mullaley said. There wont be anyone yelling Mullaley, you suck, like at some of the other tournaments Ive been to lately.

This is the most anticipated nationals in some time. Theres a lot of buzz about this around the travel league ... Everyone is looking forward to coming here.



dmacrae@thetelegram.com

Organizations: International Softball Congress, North American, Pan American Games

Geographic location: Freshwater, Lions Park, Newfoundland

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