Abbotsford’s Callum Pilgrim may now speak with a hint of southern drawl, but her blood is still Canadian red and the W.J. Mouat grad may potentially prove that in a few months at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Pilgrim was recently named to the Softball Canada women’s national team as an alternate and could receive the call to travel with the team to Japan this summer.
The centre fielder completed four successful seasons with the Kentucky-based Lindsey Wilson College Blue Raiders of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and now has a chance to represent her country at the grandest stage in sports.
Pilgrim received an invite to train with the team back in March, participating in try-outs and exhibition games from their base in Florida. She officially made the cut last week and said she’s thrilled to receive an invite to the Olympics.
“It’s a dream come true,” she said, from her alma matter in Columbia, Ky. “Just getting to be around this team and around these girls every single day, just building up and developing our culture as a team, it’s living the dream. We are preparing every single day to win the gold medal and I was just shocked and then honoured to find out I was an alternate.”
Like everything else on the planet, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the plans for the women’s national softball team and Pilgrim herself. Pilgrim and the rest of the team were training in Halifax in March 2020 for the Summer Olympics, but then the pandemic hit – shutting down that training and then eventually delaying the Olympics.
Pilgrim said the team had to adapt, getting training in on an individual basis – often in their own homes or garages – and she feels the team is stronger because of it.
The ability to adapt helped Pilgrim thrive in her four years with the Blue Raiders. She fit in immediately on the team and contributed from her first year. She collected 82 hits, the second highest in school history in her rookie season and had a .406 batting average to go with five home runs and 41 runs batted in.
Her strong play continued for the next three years, capping off her college career batting .405, knocking 11 home runs and driving in 54 runs batted in in 2018-19. She was also excellent in the field, committing only five errors in her last three seasons (over 150 games).
Pilgrim and the Blue Raiders advanced to the NAIA World Series in her senior year, but ultimately came up just short. Despite the loss, Pilgrim was named an NAIA Softball First Team All-American and was named the Mid-South Conference player of the year. She also ranked in the NAIA’s top-25 in seven different statistical categories in her final year.
It’s a far cry from Pilgrim’s humble beginnings in the sport at the age of four. But it wasn’t just softball that Pilgrim played in Abbotsford. The 2015 W.J. Mouat grad also excelled in basketball, volleyball, track and field and cross country in high school.
“We hear all the time about how important it is to have that multi-sport background,” she said. “But it really helped me build up my overall athleticism and built up a community of so man friends just from playing all these different sports. I’m super grateful I had the opportunity to branch out and meet all sorts of people while having fun playing them.”
Softball is back at the Olympics after not being includes in the 2012 and 2016 events. The sport made its debut in 1996, and the best Canada has ever finished was fourth in 2008. Pilgrim believe this team has the ability to break that streak.
“We know about the heartbreak in 2008,” she said. “But I think we have some super veterans on our team now and we can learn from their experiences and just go for that gold. The girls on this team are hungry. I’m starstruck everyday by getting the opportunist to pick their brains and just learn from them.”
Softball Canada 🇨🇦 athletes received a curveball when it was revealed that 🥎 would be back on the Olympic program after a 12-year absence! 🤩
It will always be a moment to remember. Here's how this 🥎 team is ready for a once in a lifetime opportunity ⤵️ https://t.co/Tebz4D1dHI
— Team Canada (@TeamCanada) May 17, 2021
The 24-year-old said she hopes to get more chances to represent Canada and this year is going to be a big opportunity to soak everything in. She also shook off any concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone on the team has received two vaccination shots and Pilgrim stated they are tested very frequently. Spectators will not be present at the Tokyo Olympics and athletes will also be in a bubble.
Pilgrim re-iterated her excitement level is off the charts for the Olympics to begin.
“I’m so proud to be a part of this incredible team,” she said. “I really can’t wait to see what all 18 of us and the staff can achieve in Tokyo. It’s been a collective effort and I think everyone back home should be ready to watch this team compete.”
Team Canada opens against Mexico on July 21, then takes on the USA on July 22, Australia on July 24, Japan on July 25 and Italy on July 26. The bronze and gold medal games are set for July 27.
For more on the team, visit softball.ca.