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Baseball Canada – OTTAWA-They began their careers on the Women’s National Team together back in 2004 so it’s only fitting that they finish together, too. After 15 seasons with the program, that has included participation in all eight Women’s Baseball World Cups and the 2015 Pan American Games, Kate Psota (Burlington, ON) and Ashley Stephenson (Mississauga, ON) are retiring as players from the Women’s National Team.

Psota, 32, and Stephenson, 36, end their playing careers as the most decorated female athletes to wear a Canadian national team uniform having captured a Pan Am Games silver medal in 2015 along with WBSC Women’s Baseball World Cup silver medals in 2008 and 2016, and bronze medals in 2004, 2006, 2012 and 2018.

In what will go down as their last game played with the Women’s National Team, Psota and Stephenson went out on a winning note after a thrilling, extra-innings, 8-5, win over the United States last August in Viera, Florida to win a women’s baseball world cup bronze medal.

“I love playing baseball and will definitely miss the feeling of competing in big games but there comes a time in every athlete’s career when it’s best to move on to new opportunities,” said Stephenson. “This was the right time for me to close one door and look forward to new adventures and challenges that are ahead.”

“I approached the World Cup in Florida as if it were to be my last.  I knew my time on the diamond as a player was coming to an end and I wanted to make sure I soaked up every memory I could,” continued Stephenson. “What a better way to go out than beating our rivals in extra innings on their turf!”

“I think deep down I knew (I’d retire) in Florida, but the last few months solidified it for me,” said Psota. “The decision wasn’t easy, but it’s the right time and certainly a mix of emotions after being part of the program for 15 years.”

Looking back on her national team career with fond memories of epic world cup games, former teammates and people met along the way, Psota has experienced the growth of the Women’s National Team program from the ground-up.

“I am most proud of how much our program (and sport) has developed and grown since 2004,” she said. “There’s still lots of room for growth, but I never imagined when we started it would be at the point we are today. 

“I am proud to have played along side so many outstanding ball players and individuals over the course of my career.  I am very thankful to all the coaching and support staff for their time dedication to the program over the years as well as my family and friends for their continued support.”

Stephenson echoes Psota’s sentiments about the growth of women’s baseball and feels fortunate to have played for her country for such a long period of time.

“I think I’m most proud of how our team and our sport have grown over the past 15 years,” she explained. “The level of skill and commitment these athletes put into their game is extraordinary.  

“I am proud that I had the opportunity to play for my country for so many years. It was truly a dream come true!”

The retirement represents a changing of the guard so to speak with the Women’s National Team program following the retirement of veteran Nicole Luchanksi following last year’s world cup while the only field manager the program has ever know, André Lachance, will be transitioning into a general manger’s role with Aaron Myette moving to manager from pitching coach.

“I knew in the back of my mind that this day would come for Kate and Ashley, but for them to officially retire is very emotional for me and will take some time to sink in,” said Lachance. “Not only have they meant so much to our national team program, they have meant a ton to women’s baseball in general.

“They’re pioneers, they’re legends of our sport and they will be greatly missed on the playing field.”

Lachance and Myette will not be the only changes on the Canadian coaching staff as Stephenson has accepted a coaching role that will see her move to other side of the game with the Women’s National Team program.

“I am beyond thrilled to be joining the Baseball Canada coaching staff,” said Stephenson. “I love the game and this program!  

“I always knew once my playing days were over I wanted to coach, so to be able to jump in immediately is exciting.  I have lots to learn but am willing to work hard and contribute in any way Aaron (Myette) and (coach) Sheen Bromley see fit.” 

There will be two pairs of very big spikes to fill when the next edition of the Women’s National Team takes the field in 2019 – shoes that may be impossible to fill after so many years with the program.

Still, the program will move on and baseball will be played with Canadian players forging their own path with the legacies of Psota and Stephenson not far away.

“From the first time you put that red and white jersey on to the last, take in every moment,” said Psota when thinking of the next generation of Women’s National Team athletes. “It takes a lot of sacrifices and discipline to be part of this program, but it will always be worth it. Always be thankful to those who helped you get there and continue to help you. Work hard, play hard and always remember to have fun!”