Even before the baseball season is officially underway, Rhiann Ward has made a little history this year.
The 17-year-old is the first ever female head coach in the Corner Brook Baseball Association, as she’ll guide the Barons U12 female A team this summer.
“It’s pretty cool,” acknowledged Ward, the magnitude of the accomplishment perhaps not quite hitting home.
“(Corner Brook Baseball Association president Jason Mosher) told me, ‘You’re the first one,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, OK.””
That reaction never surprised Mosher for a second.
He describes Ward as extremely mature, but even more humble. As a role model for young girls in the city’s ever-growing female baseball program, he said Ward hits all the marks.
“She’s an excellent student, an excellent person, an excellent baseball player and an excellent coach,” he said.
The daughter of Corner Brook’s Lesley and Glenn, Ward began playing minor baseball at the age of seven. She was surrounded by boys back then, noting there was "probably two” girls in the entire program.
A figure skater during the winter months, Ward, who mostly played third base, said she loved the “team atmosphere” of baseball more than anything else.
She actually gave up baseball for a few years, before the female division was a reality, because she didn’t want to play at a high provincial level with only guys. When the female numbers went up, she returned to the diamond.
She won’t be playing this summer, however, as she’s put her coaching responsibilities to the forefront. If she was playing, her own provincial championship would clash with that of the girls she’s coaching, so that wasn’t going to work for her.
“I just love the kids,” she said.
Mosher said he’s really impressed with how Ward has taken the past few years to go above and beyond in learning more about baseball, learning about managing teams and coaching individual teams as opposed to just being an instructional coach.
“It just goes to show she was the right choice,” he said.
Ward spent last season as assistant coach with the U12 A female Barons, and has been instructing minor baseball in general for the past two summers. She said she picked up quite a few things from those experiences.
“I kind of have the same game plan as what we did last year,” she said.
Ward oversaw an U12 group of players during the association’s winter session, and will do so again with spring baseball begins shortly.
Official tryouts for her U12 team will begin in June, with the first tournament slated for July.
She’s got all those big dates for the season circled on the calendar — or marked in her phone, at least — and is ready to get started.
And, she’s hoping she’s only just getting started. Her plan is to continue coaching past this season and take it as far as she can.
“Of course,” she said when asked. “We’ll just have to see where it goes.”
Mosher said she’s already been an inspiration to young girls in the program and, in fact, there will be another female coaching this year as well — Bethany Brophy will serve as assistant coach with the U14 girls team.
“It will absolutely lead to more female coaches in the association in the future,” he said.