The month of July is one John Stuart is not likely to forget anytime soon.
It began with Canada capturing their first world men’s softball championship since 1992 — and for the first time on home soil — in Saskatoon. And the month ended with Canada pulling off the double-double, taking gold at the Pan American Games in Toronto.
“It still kind of feels surreal,” said Stuart, the head coach for Team Canada.
“It was an unbelievable experience.
“To get Canada back on the map as one of the top countries in the world and then go to Toronto for the Pan Am Games and win gold there, it has been just unbelievable.”
At the world championships, Canada defeated the defending champions from New Zealand 10-5 in the gold medal game on July 5. New Zealand had beaten Canada 9-5 earlier the day before in the playoff round, forcing them to play Venezuela to see which team would face New Zealand in the final. Canada won that game 10-0 and then later that day, topped their well-rested opponent for the gold.
For the tournament, Canada finished 7-1.
And they took that momentum to Toronto for the Pan Am Games, where they went 7-0 and beat Venezuela 2-1 in the gold medal game on July 18.
“They are special in their own way just because we have been with this group of guys, basically for the most part, since 2010,” Stuart said.
The 50-year-old Stuart was named head coach of the squad back in November, but has been involved with Team Canada in some capacity since 2006.
But Stuart — who played baseball until he was 21 and took up softball at 16 — was coaching and managing as far back as when he played.
“I enjoy coaching and managing a team probably more than I did playing,” he admitted.
He downplayed his role in helping Canada win the gold medal at both events.
“The players did it all,” Stuart said.
“Basically, there is not a lot of coaching at this level; you are basically just managing a team and putting a line-up out and letting them play ball.”
“If you are over-coaching these guys, it doesn’t work,” Stuart added.
“They are the best in the world for a reason so go let them play and manage the game the best you can. The only thing I could have done was screw up.”
Despite having two sons, Stuart has never coached kids, preferring to coach adults instead.
Stuart moved to Langley in 2008 and he has two hockey playing sons: 19-year-old Levi and 15-year-old Brodi.
The family moved to Langley from Squamish – Stuart and his wife Barb grew up in the small town — so his sons could pursue hockey.
Stuart also works with the Vancouver Giants in a fundraising capacity for their education program, as well as running JSSports, which does fundraising events.
Stuart will spend the rest of the summer scouting club teams in preparation for the winter when they name the new 40-man roster for Team Canada.