by Samantha Gardner
From watching her father coach, her brother play, playing herself, or coaching a youth softball team, sophomore Megan Asham has spent countless hours at the diamond.
Asham grew up in Brandon, Manitoba and has played softball for almost her entire life.
“I was born into it with my dad coaching Team Manitoba baseball,” Asham said. “I started playing baseball, then moved into playing softball at age 11.”
Her father, Faron, is the president for Brandon minor league baseball and has been coaching for 25 years. Asham’s family also oversees Simplot Millennium Park in Brandon, which has eight fields and is home to Team Manitoba.
Asham said she spent many summers raking fields, which made her appreciate what goes into making a field look nice.
“It makes you appreciate the little things,” she said.
Asham’s brother, Dustin, is also heavily involved in baseball. At the age of 18, he went to Toowoomba, Australia to play semi-professional baseball. He played for the Toowoomba Rangers Baseball Club for two years before retuning back to Canada to go to Brandon University.
During Asham’s senior year of high school, she was given an offer to play softball in Australia for the Brisbane Bears, where she would only be an hour away from her brother.
“My dad gave me the choice to go to Australia for two years and play or go to a University and play for four years,” Asham said.
After a lot of deliberation, she decided that four years would be better than two, so she accepted a scholarship offer to catch for Dragon softball.
“The starting catcher my freshman year was solid,” Asham said. “I knew I would have big shoes to fill when she graduated.”
Asham’s freshman year was a learning experience, a stepping stone she could use to improve in her sophomore season.
Her sophomore year was not what she expected though. After years of loving the game, Asham realized how easily the game she loved could be taken away from her.
“We were doing a drill where we have runners on bases and Coach Fehl hits the ball and the defense has to make a play to get an out,” Asham said. “We do this drill at every practice so it was nothing new to us.”
During one of the plays, Fehl hit the ball and one of Asham’s teammates, Kristy Bruni, dove head first into home plate to avoid getting tagged out.
“I jumped up to get a ball that the shortstop threw in the (baseline) and she didn’t slow down,” Asham said. “She dove head first and her head went right into my knee.”
At the time, no one knew the extent of the injuries that both players had suffered.
“I was more worried about her,” she said. “I had a tingle in my leg but didn’t think anything of it.”
Asham and Bruni were quickly on their feet to get ready for the next play and it wasn’t until after practice that both girls went into the athletic training room to get checked out.
“Something just didn’t feel right in my knee,” Asham said.
The trainers diagnosed Bruni with a concussion and predicted that Asham had torn her meniscus, a C-shaped piece of cartilage that acts like a cushion in the knee, but needed a MRI to determine the grade of tear.
“I felt devastated,” Asham said. “I didn’t know what the future would be like for me. The season had just started, and … it was hard to take in.”
With Canada’s health care system, Asham was not able to get a MRI until the end of November.
“It usually takes around nine months to get an appointment in Canada,” she said. “My dad coached the son of a doctor who had his own practice and he was able to get me in. I got lucky.”
At the MRI appointment, her doctor confirmed her meniscus was torn and there was a fracture in line with the tear in her tibia.
She was told that she would have to use crutches until surgery.
Asham’s surgery was scheduled for later Decemeber in Winnipeg, but was postponed due to lack of staffing. Asham then had to wait almost an another entire month, but even then she was fortunate.
“The whole process usually takes about two years in Canada,” she said. “So I was really lucky I was able to get it done in four months.”
After much anticipation, Asham’s surgery went well and she was ready for rehab.
“After my surgery I felt so relieved,” Asham said. “I started to walk the very next day and I knew that it was going to be a long road to recovery, but it would be worth it in the end.”
Asham worked every day, hoping to strengthen her knee enough to get back on the field.
Four weeks after surgery, she was able to fully catch again in practice for the first time since September. Now into the regular season, Asham has appeared in nine games, starting in three of them.
“This whole experience has taught me to appreciate the game more than I did before,” she said. “My mind-set is now that I ‘get’ to go to practice, instead of me thinking I ‘have’ to go to practice. I still have some more recovering to do, but I’m looking forward to being 100 percent and continuing to play the sport I love.”