Emily Meloche took up softball when she was only seven years old.
“I started because my sister was playing, and I wanted to be like her when I was younger. So that’s really what got me started,” said Meloche.
Though the sport may run in the family, with her father Dean being a former player, Meloche is carving her own path. Now 19, she’s been nominated for “athlete in a team sport at the Canadian level” at this year’s Sports Quebec Gala.
The Kahnawa’kehró:non catcher’s year has been action-packed, to say the least. She took home gold at the Queen of the Diamonds Victoria Day Classic with Team Quebec’s U19 girls’ team in Brantford, Ontario, last May. At the Canada Games over the summer, Team Quebec won the silver medal, with Meloche tying for the top batting average of the tournament with .609. And in the fall, she started her first year playing for Spoon River College in Illinois, a division 2 college team in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).
And she’s continuing to aim high. “I was very honoured to be nominated. I think why it means so much to me is that it might help me be seen for Team Canada, which is one of my ultimate goals for softball.”
She is one of 58 finalists of the 231 candidates from sports federations across Quebec who will be vying for a Maurice trophy at Sports Quebec’s 50th gala.
“She had a very good year with her team,” said Thierry Gamelin, director of communications and marketing for Sports Quebec, who is mandated by the Quebec government to oversee the selection process and host the gala.
Six experts in the sports industry sit on the selection committee put together by Sports Quebec to pick out the nominees and ultimately the winner across each of the 20 categories.
“Emily was always the one stepping up to perform,” said Meloche’s former coach with Team Quebec, Brad Pelletier, to whom her nomination came as no surprise.
“It’s her love of the game, it makes her tough to beat,” he said. “She never misses a practice. Every practice, she’ll be 200 percent. And so she’ll be the same obviously in the game. And it’s contagious,” he said.
Meloche also puts in the hours off the field, on top of her six-day training schedule.
“It’s not only practices; if you want to do well, you have to put in extra work on your own time,” she said on the challenges of training at the level she’s at, aside from adjusting to being away from home. “It’s basically a whole new life here.”
One of the milestones in Meloche’s softball career so far was last summer’s silver medal win at the Canada Games with Team Quebec. “I couldn’t even explain how exciting that was. We had worked for two years to get there. And it paid off.”
But Meloche doesn’t take all the credit for what’s kept her going throughout the years. “I’ve had great coaches over the years, and my parents have always been very supportive of everything I’ve been doing,” she said.
“I really enjoyed coaching her. And she made my life easier, that’s for sure. I hope I made her life easier also,” said Pelletier.
What she’s learned playing softball has served her off the field, too. Although Meloche said she may come off as timid and quiet, she takes on a leadership role on her team as a catcher, which is a skill she’s seen transfer outside of the game.
“It helps me get out of that shell,” she said.
Winners will be announced at the 2023 Sports Quebec Gala on May 11 at Bonsecours Market in Montreal.