Liam Hickey was working fulltime for Canada
You might call Liam Hickey a busy body.
He and Colin Walsh are new additions to Canadian senior men's softball team that includes four other Newfoundlanders, including catcher Ryan Boland
Kelly's Pub Bulldogs shortstop Shane Boland catches a throw as Pat O'Leary of the Canada Games team slides into second base as during St. John’s senior softball action at Lions Park earlier this week. Boland has been named to the roster for the Canadian team that will defend its title at the world men’s softball championship in Yukon next month. Boland and his older brother Ryan are two of six Newfoundlanders playing on the team.
©Keith Gosse/The Telegram
It was a proud moment for Shane Boland two summers ago, in July, 2015, as Canada swept up a pair of gold medals in two of the highest profile fastpitch softball tournaments the game has to offer.
Early in the month, in Saskatoon Sask., the Canadians doubled New Zealand 10-5 to win this country’s first world men’s championship in 1992.
A country of weeks later, in Toronto, the national team squeaked past Venezuela 2-1 in the final game to win gold at the Pan Am Games.
The Canadian squad that year featured five Newfoundlanders in the starting lineup, quite a moment for all softball-playing athletes from this province, including Boland.
But what made the double gold extra special was that Ryan Boland, his brother, was the starting catcher, joining Sean Cleary, Brad Ezekiel, Jason Hill and Stephen Mullaley on the team.
Now, two years later, Shane Boland from Goulds gets his crack with the men’s national team, having been named to the final roster this past week, joining his brother, and fellow holdovers Cleary, Ezekiel and Mullaley.
Colin Walsh of Petty Harbour, another newcomer, was also named to the team for the 2017 world men’s tournament starting July 7 in Whitehorse, Yukon. The roster was decided following a selection camp in Kitchener and Innerkip, Ont., last weekend.
(By the way, Hill is also a core roster player on national senior team, but he won’t be in Whitehorse as his wife is expected to give birth to their first child during that time.)
Playing for the national team is a big enough deal, but to do so with your brother makes the possibility of the experience much more exciting.
“He’s four years older than me,” said the 26-year-old Shane Boland of his brother, “but we’ve always been together, playing travel ball together. I was very proud of him. Certainly there was no envy.
“But I obviously wanted to be there, too. Now I get my chance. It’s a big dream to make Team Canada, but certainly it’s more special with Ryan there. He’s a vocal leader, the unofficial captain.”
Boland is a shortstop, which is perfect since Canada’s starting shortstop in 2015 — Ian Fehrman — has retired. However, Kevin Schellenberg, a 13-year national team veteran, remains to fight for the job.
“But the job is open, so it’s up to me to show what I can do,” Boland said.
Boland, one of the finest two-sport athletes in the province — he captained the Southern Shore Breakers hockey team, and was added to the Herder Memorial Trophy-winning Conception Bay CeeBees for the provincial senior final — has worn the national softball team’s maple leaf before, with Canada’s juniors in the 2008 world championship in, ironically enough, Whitehorse.
Since then, he’s been a fixture on provincial junior and senior teams — he was top batter and all-star shortstop at the nationals last summer in St. John’s — and has played on the International Softball Congress travel tour since 2012.
Last year, he, his brother and Cleary were members of the Toronto Gators, who beat the Hill United Chiefs of Ontario in the ISC final in the U.S. Craig Edmunds and Jeremy O’Reilly from Newfoundland also played on the Gators.
This season, Shane Boland will suit for the Chiefs. Ryan, an engineer working offshore, has retired from travel ball, focusing on national team duties.
Before Canada head to the Yukon to defend its title, the team will be playing a tournament in Vancouver. In September, the national team is headed to the Dominican Republic for a Pan Am qualifier.
Walsh, at 24, is one of the youngest members of Team Canada, and is getting his first taste of action with the national team.
A left-handed pitcher, national team coaches under John Stuart of B.C. — John Hill of St. John’s and Les Howey of C.B.S. are assistants — liked Walsh’s versatility. He can hit, run the bases, play some outfield and first base and throw a couple of innings (the fact he’s a southpaw is not a bad thing).
“To put on a Team Canada jersey is a dream come true,” said Walsh, who hails from Petty Harbour. “I don’t know how it will feel, but I suspect it will be nothing but good.
“This is everything that we work towards as athletes.”
Walsh likely opened a few eyes last September when he was named top pitcher at the national senior men’s championship. He was the hard-luck loser on a five-hitter with 10 strikeouts as his Kelly’s Pub Molson Bulldogs dropped a 3-0 decision to Galway Hitmen in another all-Newfoundland national senior men’s final.
Walsh also plays on the travel circuit in the U.S., last year with the North Dakota-based Kegel Black Knights. This summer, he will play with the Kitchener Cubs.