The road trip is over and Kevin Schellenberg has a silver medal to remind him of his trip of a lifetime to New Zealand.
The fastpitch player from Squamish, at 23 years of age, is one of the youngest and newest members of Canada's senior men's softball team.
Late last year he was picked to play for the team at the 2004 International Softball Federation (ISF) World Softball Championships in Christchurch.
At home, Schellenberg plays with the Greg Gardner Fastpitch Club. His speed, strong arm and maturity caught the eyes of teams in larger centres and he also caught the eye of the national coaching staff.
Schellenberg is an infielder and a utility player but he didn't go on the trip as a starter. He said he got into all but two of Canada's world championship tournament games.
The national team coaches called on him many times to pinch run.
The teams involved in the world championships played an initial round-robin tournament to determine playoff contenders. Canada's only loss in the early going was against Samoa on Jan. 31.One of Schellenberg's highlights came the next day against Australia.
"That was a must win because we were one-and-one and we wanted to keep double life going into the playoffs," he said.
With Canada leading 2-1 Schellenberg was brought in as a pinch runner at first base. He made it to second base on a pass ball, got to third and then stole home for what became the winning run in a 3-2 contest.
Schellenberg started in the Feb. 4 game against South Africa. The Canadians won and then snuck by New Zealand the next day with a 5-4 win to end the round robin with a record of six wins and a loss.
Schellenberg was again brought into the game to pinch run and scored to pull his team ahead of the host squad.
The loss for the Black Sox was their first and last.
Next for the Canadians was a playoff win against Japan on Friday (Feb. 6). The 2-1 victory over Japan pushed Canada through to the next round to face New Zealand again.
Going into the second match-up between the teams, each team had only one previous loss and the New Zealand loss was to Canada.
The Black Sox turned the tables and came away with a convincing 13-5 win and advanced to the gold medal game.
Canada was forced to play early Sunday (Feb. 8) against Australia in a game that decided the bronze medal winner.
The Canadians shut out the Australians 7-0. Australia's loss guaranteed silver at worst for Canada and gave Australia its first ever ISF men's medal.
The final game of the tournament was played on the same afternoon. The New Zealand Black Sox entered the game as defending champions while Canada came into it looking to improve the fourth place finish Canada scored at the last world championships in 2000.
The final game of the tournament was the third meeting of the Canadians and the Black Sox.The New Zealanders hit three key home runs and didn't look back on the way to the 9-5 win.
Schellenberg said the New Zealand win was clouded by an incident in the bottom of the fourth inning.
"The New Zealand batters were destroying our pitching," he said. "A lady was in the centre field bleachers with a laptop and a digital camera. She was caught by an ISF official and he made her shut the electronics down. When he approached her the computer screen was focused exactly on our catchers crotch. The whole thing is under investigation."
"We had a great tournament and given that it is our off season when some of these teams are in season, our results were positive," said head coach Mark Smith. "We have a dynamic team filled with a great group of talented men who worked hard all week to get to the final game. We wanted gold but at least we are going home with a medal."
The busiest game of the trip for Schellenberg came in an exhibition game before the world championships. "I got to play and had 17 at-bats with a batting average of .355," he said.It was a learning experience, Schellenberg said. "Just sitting back and watching the veteran players and the little things they do and what it takes to be that type of player and get that far," he said. "It was almost like boot camp because we were out of season. We played 21 games over the course of the 24 days we were gone. Plus practices every day and some times two practices a day."
Schellenberg is now setting his sites on the next big events that include the world championships in 2009, the 2007 Pan-Am Games in Rio de Janeiro and the next Commonwealth Games.