Isla Turgeon isn’t one to limit her options.
The 15-year-old from Red Deer, who turns 16 Saturday, was already playing high school and club volleyball, along with baseball with the Red Deer Braves and Team Alberta before she joined the St. Joseph High School Baseball/Softball Academy last fall.
Now she’s added softball to her resume.
Isla decided to attend St. Joseph after her Grade 9 year at St. Francis.
“My older brother (Adam) is in Grade 12 and has been in the academy for three years while I have a number of close friends there and they all tell me how great it is is. As well we’re friends with the vice-principal and she tells me how great the academy is and how much better the kids can get.”
Isla got into the softball program, although her main goal is to continue on with Team Alberta’s girls baseball program.
“I want to continue with Team Alberta and play softball with the Rage this summer. Hopefully I can balance it so I can do both,” said the five-foot-11, Grade 10 student.
Red Deer’s Kelsey Lalor, who is one of the premier women’s baseball players in the world, and a starter with Boise State in fastball, was a guest speaker at St. Joseph Academy recently.
“She talked about how different it was the about making the switch between the two sports,” she said. “She just said you have to be patient … just take a step back and work at learning a new sport.”
Isla sees that at the academy.
“There are a lot of great athletes in the softball program and I am a step behind them,” she said. “So I can’t imagine stepping at the level Kelsey did.”
Isla says the major difference is hitting.
“The ball comes in at a different angle so you have to adjust that way, but also not try to change your swing.”
What Lalor did do was influence Isla into thinking about a softball scholarship.
“I put it in the back of my kind,” she said. “But that’s down the road. Right now my main goal is making Team Alberta.”
But then she may have another road when it comes to a scholarship as she’s a solid middle blocker in volleyball.
“There’s that possibility as well,” she said. ‘I’ll definitely see where it all takes me. I love both sports equally as much.”
Isla got into baseball in Grade 5 and played mosquito baseball with her friends.
“I went into it to play in the rec program but made the A team,” she said. “I continued on in the Braves program until last summer when we didn’t play because of COVID.”
She didn’t mind playing with the boys at a younger age.
“The environment was super positive … a lot of fun,” she said. “But I really enjoyed switching to the girls programs. I thrived.”
She made Team Alberta two years ago and helped them win silver at the Western Canadian championships in Kamloops.
“Making Team Alberta was incredible, one of my best experiences ever.
“Competing at the Westerns and getting an opportunity to play against players from all over was a thrill. I missed last year because I injured my ankle, but I hope to play at the Nationals one day. That will be unbelievable.”
It seems Isla is on the Team Alberta’s radar as she was involved in their winter program.
“They ran a program online for girls of all ages and it made me excited about getting back this summer. Hopefully we get to play.”
Isla pitches, plays first base and some third base in baseball. But pitching is her first love.
“I miss it a lot … my best memories are on the mound. I can’t wait to get back.”
Academy head coach Jason Chatwood and Isla have talked about her getting an opportunity to work on her pitching at the academy.
“We talked about it just before the school shut down again,” she explained. “Jason has been real supportive and with the school reopening on Monday I’m anxious to get back and start working on my pitching.”
Isla plays first base with the softball program.
“We played a couple exhibition games last fall and playing first base there’s not much different between the two sports,” she said.
If Isla can play both sports this summer, she’ll be with the Rage’s B team.
“They picked the A team last fall and I had about two weeks experience,” she said with a laugh. “Maybe down the road. Whatever works out.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at email@example.com