Fastpitch: Bats, balls, books and weights. Who is Quinn Danniels?

The Ryerson University Rams fastpitch team find themselves at the top of the Ontario Intercollegiate FastPitch Association East Division standings. It has taken a full team effort to get them where they are, tied for first with the Queen’s Gaels at identical 7-5 records. Veteran experience has been key to their success, but new blood has certainly helped.

Quinn Danniels, one of the rookies on the team, is enjoying her first collegiate fastpitch softball season as a member of the Ryerson University Rams. The 18-year-old from Toronto is the Ram’s left fielder and has helped the team to their number one position.

When one thinks of collegiate athletes, it is assumed that they have played the sport for the majority of their lives, however, for Danniels, her fastpitch career is much briefer. In speaking to 49, Danniels said, “I played slow-pitch from grade 5 to 12, but only picked up the fast game in the summer between 11 and 12.”

Her friend offered to go with her to the Toronto fastpitch tryouts, and to her surprise- she was offered a spot on the team. At the time of trying out, the then 15-year-old was a pitcher; however, when she reached the fastpitch stage, her pitching career was forced to fall by the wayside. Fortunately for her, left field suited her just fine and she has found a home there for Ryerson.

Image result for toronto fastpitch
Toronto Fastpitch Club

Making the transition from slow to fastpitch at the plate was a whole other challenge. Her first thoughts when seeing the faster pitchers were “I’m never going to be able to hit.” But as with most things, Danniel’s practice and dedication to her craft paid off, and she is now at a point where she has potential at the plate.

While the game itself has been a transition for Danniels, there are more distinct challenges and changes off the field. Bring a first-year on a senior team is never an easy task for any athlete, but for Danniels, she’s used to the feeling.

I’m used to being an outlier, throughout my life I’ve often been the youngest on the team, and in many instances the only girl.”

In the past, she had played on basketball teams where it’s 14 guys and her. Or on other softball teams with much older players in her early teens. Having those experiences prior to the Ryerson season has aided her transition.

Before her Ryerson career began, she went to Havergal college; an all-girls private school in Toronto. Going to a private school and having understanding teachers was extremely helpful for Danniels who missed many classes and had to juggle an out of school sport while continuing to be a full-time high school student. Having already gone through that situation, she’s well equipped to handle the rigours of being a student-athlete.

The collegiate softball schedule is based around weekends with a highly condensed schedule over six weeks. Most competition days see teams playing anywhere from 2-4 games, sometimes even using Friday as an extragame day. The team practices once a week, meaning between games and training- school is still manageable.

“I’ve only once before played such a condensed schedule, so this has been a challenge.” the former Havergal student said during the interview. Playing games with little rest have taken a toll on everyone, but for Danniels- who has criticized fitness her whole life it is barely felt.

Other than her softball, her athletic pursuits include baseball and powerlifting. While baseball makes sense given its likeness to softball, powerlifting does not fit in. Her powerlifting career is also illustrious as is her softball career, although there is no collegiate team for her to compete on. She has competed on a provincial level like she has in softball, but is not looking to go further in the sport.

An athlete her whole life, she is very competitive and has always strived for the next level. However, given her gender- there is a ceiling to how far she can go in her sporting endeavours. There is no feasible professional pathway for women in softball, and making a living through powerlifting is also a challenge. When asked whether the fact there are slim pro opportunities affect her mentality, Danniels dismissed the question saying “I’m competitive and try to win in whatever I’m doing. Ryerson may be as far as I get- but even this is a massive honour.” That thinking is what has gotten her to this point, and is what will help her in her future pursuits, whether they be academic or athletic.

Now studying Sport Media, Danniels is pursuing her passion, while giving back to her school on the field. With her on-field experience in both baseball and softball, the possibility of a career in punditry is a rich one. There are only two weeks to go in the softball season, but for Danniels, the season never stops, the next one begins. Either way, the rookie left fielder has not looked out of place in the field or in the classroom as she chases her sporting dreams.

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