Youth teams line up to meet their idols on Team Canada

2013 Canadian Open underway Friday at Surrey’s Softball City

The Quebec Rebelles, California A's, and Venezuela get started with exhibition games. Team Canada starts against California on July 16.

Another July, another summer month spent at Softball City.

The Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship returns to Surrey today, Friday, July 12, and to three ballparks in the Fraser Valley – not only Softball City, but also Cloverdale Athletic Park and Sunnyside Park.

This year, 2013, will be the event’s 30th in South Surrey. It was previously named the Canada Cup, and was re-branded the Canadian Open FIC just recently.

Opening day action on Friday – starting at 6:30 p.m. – features high-flying teams from the top of the Open’s order, as well as the event’s younger squads.

The Futures and Showcase brackets got underway at Softball City, with teams from Langley, Spokane, Oregon, South Surrey, Fleetwood, Cloverdale, and North Delta going head-to-head.

Two exhibition games are also on Friday’s schedule, featuring teams in the Women’s International and Elite divisions.

The California A’s and the Quebec Rebelles will play each other in tonight’s 6:30 p.m. game on Diamond 1 at Softball City. Following that, Venezuela and the Rebelles play at 8:30 p.m. at 8:30 p.m., also on Diamond 1.

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The Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship runs until July 22, when the Women’s International gold and bronze medal finals will be held at Softball City.

This year’s Women’s International bracket – the signature section of the tournament, featuring the world’s best softballers, a few of them international superstars – features Team Canada and Team USA, as well as Japan, Australia, Venezuela, and the California A’s.

The A’s ripped through the Women’s Elite division last year. In 11 games, the A’s went undefeated with 83 runs for and 3 against.

“My goal (every year) is to come up to Canada, because I came up here in ’93 and was so impressed with your group and your hospitality and the professionalism of this tournament,” said A’s manager Kathy Miller, before the team’s final games in 2012.

Past Canadian Opens (and Canada Cups, which used to be the event’s title) have included high-profile all-stars like USA’s Jennie Finch and Canada’s Danielle Lawrie, whose brother Brett plays third base for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Women’s Elite division is the tournament’s second-highest tier, and features club teams from around Canada, North America, and the world.

This year’s Elite lineup includes the host White Rock Renegades, as well as the Quebec Rebelles, the Northwest Lady Sharks,  and Team BC.

Team Canada comes into the Fastpitch Championship ranked fourth in the world, behind Japan (No. 1), the United States (2), and Australia (3).

The team is led by veteran Megan Timph, from Port Dover, Ontario, as well as youngsters like Madison Schreyer and Sara Groenewegen.

Groenewegen, from Surrey, is joined by fellow British Columbians Sara Hopwood (Richmond), Kelsey Haberl (Burnaby), Marina Denmore (Richmond), and Larissa Franklin (Maple Ridge).

The Canadian Junior team just finished fifth at the ISF Junior World Championship in Brampton, Ontario, and has a strong Surrey base, as well, with Groenewegen, Holly Speers, and Lindsay Ogilvie leading the way.

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