Kianna Thistlethwaite is playing softball at an elite level and is looking ahead to a bright future in the sport. She just needs a little help getting there.
Due to a lack of elite softball in Powell River, this year the 15-year-old will be playing for the Nanaimo Diamonds, an elite A-level softball team in the Nanaimo and District Minor Fastball Association. She is a pitcher first and a centre fielder second and her pitch has been clocked at over 80 kmph (kilometres per hour). She started playing at four years old and is now beginning to think about university sports scholarships and whether she wants to play in Canada or the United States after high school.
“It’s pretty much been a part of my life forever. I’ve always been on ball fields,” said Kianna. “If you look at a musician on stage, a musician will always say it’s just something that feels right. It’s exactly the same thing when you’re on a pitching mound with a ball in your hand. It feels right.”
Last year Kianna played in the Okanagan Valley. She has been to two camps this year, one in Arizona and one at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, to improve her skills and hopefully get noticed by scouts. Kianna wants to take her career in softball as far as she can and is working hard to make that happen. She is also a competitive gymnast, which helps her stay fit in the offseason and comes in handy when diving after balls in the outfield.
“She’s honing her craft to a degree that people are starting to notice,” said her father Doug, “and saying ‘hey, I need that kid on my team because I don’t want to be playing against her.’”
Kianna’s speciality is her changeup pitch. When the ball leaves her hand it looks like it’s coming in as a fastball but ends up slowing down to around 16 kmph and dropping off before it reaches the plate, throwing the batter off and ruining the timing of their swing. She has heard comments about her changeup from university coaches and calls it her “bread and butter.”
Debbie, Kianna’s mother, is the coordinator for the District 3 BC Minor Softball Association, which incorporates Powell River and north Vancouver Island, and has been involved with Powell River girls’ softball for 15 years. She said that recently softball has lost popularity locally and that there is virtually nothing left in terms of girls’ softball in the city, especially not at an elite level. There are no A- or B-level teams in District 3.
For this reason Kianna has to go to Nanaimo to play at her level. This means going to Vancouver Island nearly every weekend for practices and travelling with the team to tournaments a guaranteed eight times in the upcoming season, not including provincials or beyond. All of this means a lot of travelling and a lot of costs. Kianna has to raise $1,800 just to play on the team, which goes toward tournament fees, equipment and field use. On top of that comes money for gear, jerseys, hotels and all other travel expenses.
Kianna is currently looking for sponsors for herself and her team. She has been approaching local businesses for sponsorships that go to the team but from there go to helping Kianna specifically. Businesses can have their logos or name displayed on team banner tents and practice T-shirts, depending on the level of sponsorship. The team is also planning a silent auction to raise funds and is welcoming donations.
For more information on sponsorships, interested readers can contact Debbie at 604.485.6812.