Tributes pour in with news of the sudden death of Amanda Asay, one of the most accomplished and groundbreaking athletes in Prince George’s history

André Lachance knew that when the going got tough, he could always turn to Amanda Asay – his PhD pitcher – to find a way to lead the Canadian women’s baseball team to victory.

Whether with his bat or his pitching arm, Asay never failed to deliver the goods.

The medals they won together in international tournaments speak volumes about how effective his right-handed Prince George chucker was in creating the joyful memories that come with winning at the highest levels of the game.

That joy turned to grief in the sports world on Friday when Asay died aged 33 after falling into a tree pit while skiing at Whitewater Ski Resort near Nelson.

“She was a great teammate and she made everyone around her better,” said Lachance, who coached Asay with the national team until 2018 after. That says a lot about his skills on the baseball field.

“She was always looking for better ways to do things, was always curious, always looking for ways to win by getting more information about an opponent. She was a truly curious ballplayer and when you are curious your innovation, creativity and performance will emerge. The girl has a doctorate, and that says a lot about the fact that she likes to think about how to be better as a person and better as an athlete.

This indomitable drive to improve helped Asay excel against the boys of Little League Baseball playing for PG East. Her father George was her home league team coach and she also played for the Prince George Knights rep team, where Randy Young watched her develop as a catcher.

“She was very sweet and always hardworking, very easy to coach, just a good kid overall and a great teammate,” Young said. “It’s a sad loss for someone who was so kind and had everything going for her.

“When we were doing blocking exercises when she was young, she hadn’t stopped. You throw balls at the receiver who gets beat, it’s not a fun drill, but she didn’t care. She just said, “Give me more,” because she always wanted to get better and better. This essentially characterizes her as a person, athlete and student, always striving to improve.

Rainer Lippmann coached Asay with the Peewee Knights.

“She was damn tough and good,” Lippmann said. “We didn’t play any favourites. She earned her place and she got her place.

Asay joined the national team aged 17 in 2005 and was a starter right away, helping Canada win bronze at the inaugural WBSC Women’s Baseball World Cup in Taiwan in 2006. She earned full tournament honors playing first base and was the team’s MVP.

Starting out as a catcher, Asay’s broad shoulders and powerful limbs suited her better at throwing and she became the national team’s ace and was always one of the best hitters. Known for her fastball, she added a breaking ball to her pitching arsenal over the years as she developed her elite qualities. In 2016, at the World Cup in South Korea, she won a 2-1 comprehensive match against Chinese Taipei to send Canada to the final. Asay helped Canada win silver in 2008 and 2016 and was a bronze medalist in 2006, 2012 and 2018. She was also instrumental in Canada winning silver at the Pan American Games 2015 in Toronto, which marked the first time women’s baseball was part of a major multi-sport event.

Asay played for the national team for 15 years and was a leader on and off the pitch. Lachance, who started the team in 2004, handed over coaching duties to Aaron Myette in 2018 to become the team’s general manager and Asay was being groomed to become a national team coach. She was six years older than any of her teammates, but still had the skills to compete at world level and was preparing to play in a qualifying tournament this year for the next World Cup.

Her effect on the game as a pioneer of women’s baseball and as a role model for young girls playing the game extends far beyond international borders and news of her death has prompted tributes to Baseball Canada from the Australia, Japan and Cuba.

“I wouldn’t hesitate to call her the greatest player in Canadian women’s baseball history – she’s considered that by many,” said Jim Swanson, who brought the World Baseball Challenge international tournament to Citizen Field. and invited Asay to make the ceremonial first pitch for one of the games. “She was with the national team for so long, during its formation, and was one of the founders of it on the player side.”

Asay’s multi-sport abilities were evident at a young age. She rose through the ranks of minor hockey in Prince George and played for the Cougars midget triple A and in 2005 was part of the provincial U-18 team. She also won two senior provincial titles with the BC Outback of Kamloops. As a graduate of College Heights High School, she went to Brown University, an elite Ivy League school in the United States, in 2006 on a combined college and hockey scholarship.

Asay also found time for softball, playing six years for the Prince George Thunderbirds, and was an occasional addition to Brown’s varsity softball team, where she ended up being one of the best players in the game. ‘team.

“She had a ball arm and could knock you down on your knees without standing up and she was so good at knocking people down, and she was our puncher, for sure,” said longtime friend and teammate Kelsy Hogh. Thunderbirds. “I’m sure she could have played any sport and done just fine. We knew she was going to go places, she was just dedicated. I always bragged about her. I I was always proud of her. She was very good at everything and she had a big heart. She was the ultimate bodyguard and would protect those she loved. She was so good.

Asay played NCAA softball and hockey for three seasons while earning a Bachelor of Science degree. She transferred to UBC in 2009 and went on to complete an M.Sc. and Ph.D. in forestry, while playing two seasons as a forward with the Thunderbirds hockey team. This UBC connection is in the family. It was there that his mother Loris studied to become a nurse, his father George graduated from high school in science and mathematics, and his older brother Brad became a dentist.

“She comes from a big family and was raised with great values ​​and it’s those values ​​that have been passed down to the rest of the team,” Lachance said. “When you give her the ball to throw, you have confidence and you don’t have that vibe with a lot of people. In any type of situation she could compete, and even if things are more complicated, you knew that she was going to give everything she had.

In 2017-18, Asay spent six months playing baseball in Australia for the Footscray Bulldogs in a Melbourne-based five-team men’s league. During her summers in Prince George while still in college, Asay found her baseball home at Citizen Field. She frequently came to the stadium with her father George to practice batting or to keep his pitching arm tuned while playing in the Prince George Senior Men’s Baseball League for the Red Sox.

“I always love playing in Prince George and the guys are always great to me and welcoming and it’s so nice to know if I’m in Prince George I can call a few guys and find a game,” Asay said. May 2019. Citizen article. “Especially at the beginning of my career with the national team, the league helped me a lot. It was a very good level for me, with a lot of variety in the throwing. The ball is in play in this league and I always like to pitch against these guys, some of them I know pretty well.

As soon as they learned she was back, the Red Sox made Asay their starting pitcher for the next game.

“She was just a good person, I think she was one of the most popular players on any team she played on,” Red Sox captain Paul Wilson said. “She really cared about her teammates and she always put them before herself. It was very fun to be with her.

“She was an amazing athlete and she was so humble. I would always kind of tell her she’s the greatest baseball player in the world and she was always talking about someone else. She had a very smart and I think she had wanted to, she could have had a coaching career in men’s pro baseball, she would have gotten people through a wall for her.

Asay worked as a forester for the Nelson-based Department of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development, where she continued to play hockey this winter.