By Gord Montgomery
Spruce Grove Examiner
Good athletes crossing over into a second sport is nothing new. It’s often done in college in the U.S. and in pro sports a couple of big name guys – Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders – did it with pro baseball and football.
A twist of sorts is being put on that idea this week in Argentina, where two members of the Spruce Grove Saints – Carson Soucy and Parker Mackay – are putting a Canadian spin on things by mixing hockey and softball.
The pair, both 18-year-old rookies with the local junior A team, are from the small town of Irma, and both were named to the national junior softball team after competing with their hometown team in the Canadian finals this past summer. There, they finishing first in their pool and fourth overall.
Speaking a few days before leaving for the major international event, the pair noted they’ve been teammates for as long as they can remember.
“You start in fastball when you’re just a young kid because there’s no baseball around,” Soucy said of the two taking to that game early in life. “There’s not many people in Irma, or people that play baseball, or a league around there either. There’s a softball league but no baseball league.”
Mackay said the pair became immersed in the game at four or five, “like Tom Thumb’s in hockey; we’ve played together for our whole lives.”
He continued by noting the fastball teams the pair played on, along with former Saint Ambrose Firkus who is now skating for the Westside Warriors in the BCHL, were good but the players didn’t realize how good until they got a bit older.
“We started being the best in Alberta, like winning Provincials for our age group, I guess in PeeWee.”
The two games, while not seen as building blocks for one another like lacrosse and hockey are, do in fact help with certain aspects, said Soucy.
“It helps keep you in shape in the summer,” he said of fastball. “You’re not just sitting around. You’re playing ball every day, staying in shape,” adding that sprints in ball around the bases help with building speed on the ice.
“They’re both such competitive sports whether we’re on the field or on the ice. It helps keep a competitive mind,” Mackay added.
As for being named to the team where a total of 17 players will represent Canada with five of them from Irma, Mackay noted they were scouted at the national finals this past summer. The original tryout cast from that championship was 26 players. Both hockey players will pitch for Team Canada while Mackay also plays first base and Soucy second.
The pair will miss nine league games with the Saints but Soucy noted that fact was pointed out to head coach Jason Mckee when the pair came to camp.
As for wearing the red and white maple leaf jerseys at the world finals, both teens said they were excited about that prospect.
“This is a first for both of us,” said Soucy. “This will be great going to represent our country. It should be unbelievable, actually.”
“This is very honourable to wear the maple leaf,” echoed McKay.
Both said they’ve been tossing the ball around as much as possible while immersed in their hockey season and look forward to suiting up with Team Canada as they go looking for a world title to add to their resumés as two-sport athletes.