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Unger catches the play

Local softball player reaping rewards from lessons learned in sports

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Softball has taught one Winnipeg athlete all of the necessary skills and traits needed to achieve a dream.

"It's taught me dedication, responsibility and teamwork," said Hailey Unger, who has been selected to represent Canada at the 2013 International Softball Federation Junior Women's World Championship.

"You have to be dedicated to this game because it doesn't always come naturally and there's a lot of small things that can change your entire game so you have to work at it every day."

Unger has been practising those traits since the first time she stepped on the field at the age of eight. Now the 19 year-old has checked another goal off her list of accomplishments -- representing her country on the national stage.

"I remember watching junior national teams and the senior national teams and watching these girls compete against people from across the world and I wanted to do that so badly," Unger said. "That was my childhood dream and it became a reality. It's mind blowing."

Unger will play catcher for Canada at the worlds, which run from July 1-7 in Brampton, Ont. She has been training and getting to know her new teammates in Brampton for the past two weeks.

"Some of these players are so skilled at their positions that they do things that I've never even seen before," Unger said in a phone interview. "I have complete confidence behind the plate that each of them is going to do their job at their position."

Confidence

Unger's teammates will also have complete confidence in her when she's behind the plate and at bat.

"I'm told I have a strong arm at the back of the plate so throwing somebody out at two is always a nice feeling," Unger said.

The Oak Park High School graduate just completed her freshman year with the Dakota Wesleyan University Tigers in Mitchell, S.D., where she led her team in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.

While she might have achieved one of her biggest dreams by making the national team, Unger still has goals she hopes to reach -- to become an all-American and one day represent Canada at the senior level.

Unger will also compete with Team Manitoba this summer in the Canada Games. Playing against different countries and provinces is a great way for Unger to experience more of the game.

"It's amazing being able to play against these teams and just learning more about the sport that I love. Getting the chance to play against different teams you're able to adapt and learn new skills. It's great to play against diversity," she said.

However, Unger doesn't think she'd have been able to achieve her dream without the help of her coaches and family.

"My parents have sacrificed so much," Unger said. "They're carpooling, driving me to games, making lunches, booking off days and trying leaving work early to get to my games. I don't think they've missed a game since I was eight years old."

kyle.jahns@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2013 C6

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