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Tuesday, Jun. 25, 2019
Julia Jodouin reaches her goal, albeit a different goal
by Randy Pascal

Julia Jodouin had always had her heart set on playing post-secondary ball. While she eventually reached her goal, the end result was not quite what she first envisioned.

For many years now, the 17 year-old recent graduate of St Benedict Catholic Secondary School has been firmly on the radar of both Baseball Ontario and Baseball Canada, a top end female talent on the diamond, known most notably for yielding a powerful bat.

But given the scarcity of top-end women's baseball at the university ranks - neither the NCAA or U Sports offer a competitive brand of the sport at the varsity level - Jodouin would follow the path of so many before her, opting to try and cross-over, as seamlessly as possible, to the fastball option, opening up the possibility of securing a scholarship south of the border.

"It's the same sort of game - you have to throw the ball, hit the ball, but when you get right down to it, the size of the field is different, the size of the ball is different, the release point for the pitcher is different," explained Jodouin.

"I wanted to be a power-hitter there too, but you have to learn how the hit the ball first. Even girls who have been playing softball their whole lives have trouble hitting a rise ball. It's a tough pitch. For me, I had to separate the two - I had my baseball swing and I had my softball swing."

For just under two years, the two co-existed. Jodouin was certainly making progress in the newer variation of her ball pursuit, but it simply wasn't the same. A couple of seasons ago, she would make a decision that, at the time, appeared to extinguish her life-long dream.

"My decision to stick to baseball was based on my thoughts of my future, both career-wise and passion-wise," she said. "I consciously knew that I was throwing away the opportunity to go to the States. I knew that I was putting aside the scholarship opportunities to focus on baseball and nursing here in Canada. It was a difficult decision."

Sure, there were still goals to be reached within the sport that she loved. But they would not involve an NCAA pathway. "At that point, I was thinking women's baseball, Team Canada," she said. "As far as women's baseball goes, that's as high as you can go. At that point, it definitely wasn't about playing men's varsity.

In fact, even as she narrowed her post-secondary focus of nursing programs to Cambrian College, St Lawrence College (in Kingston) and Laurentian University, her athletic aspirations formed truthfully only a very small part of the equation when it boiled right down to making her decision.

"It was originally brought to my attention that with Laurentian having a (new) baseball team, I might be able to practice with them." Nothing more, nothing less - at least initially. "But in talking with coach Brodie (Jeffery), he said "why just practice with the team? Why not play too?," recalled Jodouin.

"I think he had confidence in me that maybe I didn't even always have in myself. He had seen me hit. I train, workout and practice at the facility where he coaches. I have lots of exposure with him. I think he just put the gender aside and said skill-wise, he thought I could do it."

Earlier this spring, the Voyageurs varsity baseball team, which begins its inaugural season of OUA competition in September, announced that Julia Jodouin would in fact be part of their team roster, becoming the second woman ever to play in a university setting in Ontario.

It's certainly not as though Jodouin is not acclimatized to suiting up with male co-horts. As is the case with several different sports, Jodouin, like other top-end female talent, continued to play right alongside the best local male players in her age group, right through her teenage years.

Yes, with the field narrowing to the best of the best, the bar will be raised. "The pitches will be a little faster, but that's what hard work is for," she said. "I think my attitude has helped a lot."

A first baseman, primarily, when she dons the Team Ontario jersey in women's competition, Jodouin is also more than comfortable at third base, and has dabbled as well on the pitching mound. "I think it would be fun to pitch against the guys," she said with a smile.

"A lot of these guys are used to facing 70, 80 MPH pitching. You throw in something a little slower, maybe I can throw them off." Or maybe it becomes batting practice time for opposing hitters. Either way, the young woman who leaves in August to represent the province at the U21 nationals in Manitoba knows that there are a couple of larger picture items in play.

On a personal level, there are still mountains to climb. "Team Canada is aware of me playing at L.U.," she said. "I am super excited about the development part of this. Playing four years with the guys, I am so excited to see how much better I can be."

And while she prefers to downplay the gender aspect, there is no denying that Jodouin can serve as a role model for those who follow her path. "I am excited to show people that women can do it," she said. "Women should not be forced to stop playing a game that they love, just because of our gender."

The local product may not have to wait a very long time to have company, in that regard. Sabrina Folz, the younger sister to ultra-accomplished Sudbury gymnast Kayla Folz, has also cracked the Team Ontario roster, and will be participating in the 16U national championships in Nova Scotia.

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