By Marshall Haim
Assistant Sports Editor
Playing softball at the collegiate level takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Junior pitcher Erika Mackie has been extremely lucky to have support from her family throughout her career as a member of the Canisius softball program. Erika’s parents have exemplified those characteristics even though they are on the opposite side of the field.
“It means a lot,” Erika said on her family’s constant support. “Sometimes I take it for granted because they’ve always been at everything. Coming here really opened my eyes to how special that is because most of my teammates don’t have family here ever because they’re on the opposite side of the country. The fact that my parents come to everything, spend all the money; my dad switched a job just so he could come. It really does mean a lot.”
Her parents, Christine and Drew, have always been there supporting their only child. They’re avid softball fans and either one or both of them has been at every game that Erika has played at Canisius since she began her softball career with the Griffs in 2015. They even bring their dog, Teddy, to a select amount of games.
The team during Erika’s tenure has traveled to California, Florida, and South Carolina, among many others. No matter where the games are located, Erika’s mother, Christine, is usually there. Out of the 129 games that Canisius softball has played since Erika joined the team, Christine has missed only four games.
“I’ve always been at all of her things,” Christine said after the Griffs’ doubleheader against Buffalo at the Demske Sports Complex on Wednesday night. “Even when she played basketball in high school, ever since she was in little league, I’ve always been there. I just love watching her play, love being there to support her.”
Not only has that support existed during the collegiate softball season, it has carried over the previous two summers while Erika played for the TC Tremors, a travel team based out of Endicott, N.Y.
Erika’s father, Drew, created a 23-under Tremors team, bringing in old players from previous teams that were not able to play at a younger age level. He coached the team last season and will also coach them this upcoming season.
Along with her parents, Erika returned to the Buffalo area from their hometown of Scranton, Pa. to play in the Aunt Rosie’s Tournament in nearby Amherst, N.Y. last July. The Tremors team will also participate in this year’s tournament.
The support for not only Erika, but the entire Canisius team, comes from both Erika’s parents and her grandparents. They made the trip to Buffalo last summer for the Aunt Rosie’s Tournament. Sal and Ruth Catalano, parents to Erika’s mother, try their hardest to make it to as many games that are nearby Scranton as well.
Sal has made it to the opening weekend tournament in Cleveland, Ohio and last weekend’s tournament at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Md. Erika’s grandmother also went to a tournament this season.
“It means a lot because I don’t see them very often to begin with,” Erika said on her supportive grandparents. “Usually when I go home I stay with my family and friends, so I do see them occasionally, but them coming (to Buffalo) means a lot. They’re getting older, traveling still is really nice. They’ll go to South Carolina, and Cleveland is nine hours from (Scranton), so that’s still really far.”
Drew Mackie has been active on Twitter providing inning-by-inning updates on what has happened throughout each game that he is at. Christine does the same when Drew is not at games. Both have not only helped parents who aren’t able to make the games, but Canisius recruits, commits, and fans can keep tabs on what’s going on with the Griffs.
Lily Wozniak, a verbal commit to join the Griffs following her graduation from nearby Orchard Park High School in 2018, appreciates the support the Mackie’s have for the program.
“(Social media updates) are very convenient for us to keep up to date with the team throughout their season, especially when they are out of town,” Wozniak said on behalf of the commits. “It’s one thing to get updates through Twitter, but seeing them play gives us a good perspective of the atmosphere and camaraderie the team has.”
Sal, Erika’s grandfather, is also active on social media (Facebook primarily), posting updates of each game’s results. He also includes the players’ accounts, so their families are able see his updates.
The appreciation not only comes from prospective players, it comes from those currently on the team.
“It means a ton,” junior pitcher Madi Weathers said on the social media updates. “Personally, it means a lot to me and my family. They don’t get to come out (from California) very often and being away is very hard. The updates, and them being on Twitter, is very helpful, especially for my family.”
The players greatly appreciate the support, but so too does the coaching staff.
“Number one, for the parents that don’t live close, to be able to see the games is huge,” Canisius head coach Kim Griffin said. “We have kids from the west coast, from Hawai’i, that don’t get to see a lot. For those parents, it means a lot to get to see their kids. For them to go out of their way and to make such an effort for the whole team is really, really nice.
“As a coach, the dealings with the parents can be a difficult part of the job. We are really lucky to have a lot of amazing families and they’ve made my job easier in that sense. But the Mackie’s are a really good example of parents that are very involved, and in the right way.
“The best thing that parents can do is support their kids and support the team and they do a really nice job of supporting us all the time, but not overstepping their bounds. They know when it’s appropriate to talk to then girls and when it’s not. It’s so helpful as a head coach to have parents respect what we are doing, and respect what the coaches and girls are doing. As supportive as they are, they don’t meddle in our business and they do an amazing job of always supporting us positively.”
The Mackie and Catalano families hope that their love for the game is noticed by others in the Buffalo area and gains traction.
“It’s something nice especially with the parents that are so far away and can’t be there for every game,” Christine Mackie said. “I know how much it would break my heart if I couldn’t be there to support her and watch her play. Drew likes to tweet the games and let the far away families feel like they’re there.”
Softball, for the most part, is undercovered in the local area compared to hotbeds for softball such as Florida, California, and Texas. Those said states receive attention for the longevity of their seasons. Bigger cities like New York City and Chicago also publicize softball quite heavily.
“It’s always good seeing yourself in the newspaper,” freshman Gianna Degaltini, a native of Yorktown Heights, N.Y. in Westchester County said, comparing the coverage between her hometown and Buffalo. “Coming here, especially as a freshman, having to step on the field and make it your own is a different game. It’s cool when you’re in the paper, but the best part is the moments you’re going to get. The biggest difference is the different atmosphere and that’s what I’m getting here.”
Even if it is isn’t a hotbed, the Mackie’s and Catalano’s sure make it feel that way. Erika Mackie appreciates the support that not only her parents and grandparents have for softball, but for everyone else that has helped her over her nine-year span of playing softball.
“The support hasn’t been different. They’re always there for me no matter what,” she said. “Since I’ve got to college it’s been different. In high school we were really worried about getting recruited, going to big tournaments, and kind of rushed through travel. We said last year, it was weird not being worried about travel. It’s different now because it’s more lax. My dad’s more calm, if that’s possible. It’s different but it’s a good different.”