SINGAPORE –Since picking up softball at the age of eight, Methodist Girls’ School (MGS) student Caren Toh could always count on her dad and former national player Collin for advice and extra knowledge on the sport.
She used to follow him to his training sessions and they also played for the same team in a few friendly matches.
On Wednesday, that journey culminated in father and daughter being on opposing ends of the pitch as MGS clinched their fifth straight national B Division girls’ softball title after a 15-0 win over Dunman High School (DHS), who are coached by Collin.
While he was on the losing side, Collin was proud of his team for reaching their first final. The 45-year-old was also glad to be able to watch his daughter, 16, in action up close after missing the 2022 final because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Collin, who was in the national team from 1999 to 2011, said: “This is a dream come true and it was one of my goals this year, to meet her in the final, because after she graduates, we won’t have that chance.
“My priority was still the DHS girls, but when Caren is batting, I’ll just have a look at how she performs and definitely, she was nervous but at least it’s over now.
“We’re just happy to play against each other so there was no trash talk or anything like that.”
For Caren, having her dad on the National Junior College pitch during her last match for MGS made it extra special. After celebrating with her teammates, an emotional Caren immediately went to her father for a hug.
The Secondary 4 student, whose older brother and mother also play softball, said: “I did feel a bit of pressure, but it was all self-applied. I’m just glad he could be there to see my success and failures.
“With him being a coach and experienced player, it’s a bonus for me. I get to learn more about the sport that other people might not get the opportunity to.”
Collin added he does not usually give Caren tips on technique, but more on mental preparation. He said: “Mental strength matters the most when it comes to games.
“She says she’s nervous so having that mental strength helps her be prepared for anything that she’s going to face.”
Taking her father’s advice, Caren found that taking a nap, zoning out or playing Candy Crush before her matches help her clear her mind. Those tips worked a treat as Caren provided the winning run on Wednesday.
MGS, who had also beaten DHS in the quarter-finals, raced to a 10-0 lead after the first inning, while Jaelene Lee’s spectacular pitching saw the first three DHS batters of each inning quickly striking out. MGS’ batting saw them needing just one more run before the third inning.
Caren delivered just that, thanks to teammate Calista Chang’s spot-on hits before the umpire declared the game over because of the mercy rule, leading to shrieks and tears of celebration.
While MGS captain Yen Ning-Yo was sad to have played her last game, she said: “I feel really accomplished because we trained really hard for this. We focused on our batting and hit balls at speeds of more than 80kmh to prepare.”
DHS’ Ngiam Yi Lee, 16, was also proud of her team for defying the odds and paid tribute to Collin for motivating them. She added: “I don’t think any of us thought we could make it this far.”
On his charges’ unexpected run to the final, Collin credited their mental strength, adding: “They even had extra training during the December holidays too. This extra effort they put in really paid off. This is an achievement for them and it’s a story that will be with them for life.”