Mississauga native, Burlington teacher to coach with Blue Jays’ minor league affiliate


Published February 21, 2023 at 1:46 pm

Mississauga native and Burlington teacher Ashley Stephenson will be joining the coaching staff of the Toronto Blue Jays’ High-A affiliate, the Vancouver Canadians, for the 2023 season. BASEBALL CANADA PHOTO

Mississauga native and Burlington teacher Ashley Stephenson tells her students they should “aspire and dream to do big things.”

The kids at Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School only have to look to her for inspiration.

One of Canada’s most successful women’s national baseball team players, Stephenson is making her own dreams come true.

The physical education teacher has been hired by the Toronto Blue Jays to join the coaching staff this season of the Vancouver Canadians, their High-A affiliate in the minor leagues.

Stephenson, who will be a position coach with the Canadians, is just the second female coach in Blue Jays franchise history.

“I am really excited for this opportunity,” Stephenson told Baseball Canada. “I’ve loved baseball and the Blue Jays since I was three years old, and never really imagined that I’d be able to have a career in the game let alone with my favourite team.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to grow and develop as a coach all while doing my best to help our players reach their ultimate goal.”

Stephenson played 15 years with the national women’s team, helping Canada earn two silver medals and four bronze at the Women’s Baseball World Cup along with another silver at the 2015 Pan Am Games.

She retired as a player in 2018 and then joined the national team coaching staff where she led Canada to a bronze medal at the COPABE Women’s Pan-American Championships in 2019 and in 2022 became the first woman to manage the Women’s National Team program when Canada played a five-game series against the United States in Thunder Bay.

“I always tell my students I hope they find something they love as much as I love baseball and then work really hard at it,” said Stephenson. “You got to aspire and dream to do big things and I hope one day they reach all their goals.”

Stephenson’s path to the Blue Jays organization began when she attended a conference given by Major League Baseball called “Take the Field.”

“It was trying to get more women in the game,” she said.

The only Canadian woman selected to be part of the conference, the former national women’s star filled out questions and submitted her resume, which was passed forward to all of MLB’s general managers and assistant general managers.

Last August, Stephenson had been invited by the Blue Jays to their Player and Development Complex in Dunedin, Florida as a guest coach.

Her resume ended up on the desk of Blue Jays assistant GM Joe Sheehan.

“I’m really proud to get to this point,” said Stephenson, who also played hockey and was a star with Wilfred Laurier University before playing professionally in the National Women’s Hockey League and the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

“I was very fortunate and lucky to have this opportunity, but I worked really hard over the course of my career and I stuck with it. So now I’m getting the opportunity of a lifetime, really.”

A teacher for almost 20 years, Stephenson will be leaving her job at Dr. Frank J. Hayden, but not without praising the school and staff for preparing her for this new opportunity in baseball.

“First and foremost, just dealing with people every single day,” she said. “The students have been amazing here, the staff have been really incredible, so I’m really proud to work here.”

She also praises founding  Dr. Frank J. Hayden principal Jacqueline Newton and how she talked about the importance of building relationships with people.

“I think coaching has a lot to do with building relationships with people,” said Stephenson. “I read a lot of books and watch a lot of podcasts and listen to elite coaches and they talk all the time about how you build relationships with your players so they trust you, they believe in you and they really want to work really hard for you.

“The same goes for all my students here. I really wanted them to know that I care about them and that they were important and that they have a safe space in my class.”

The Blue Jays hired their first-ever female coach last season. Jaime Lever, of Georgetown, is currently a hitting coach for the team’s affiliate in the Florida complex league.

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