Morgan Rackel's Unconventional Path Led To NPF, Team Canada
Morgan Rackel never doubted that she could be in this position. She never shut down her dream of playing for Canada’s women’s national softball team, even though the route there may have seemed unconventional.
Now, she has arrived at her desired destination and is ready to give her all for the team she grew up admiring.
Rackel, a native of Calgary, Alberta, spent her teenage years idolizing the likes of Canadian softball–greats Lauren Bay-Regula and Danielle Lawrie-Locke. Her parents took her to the Canada Cup to see her heroines in action.
Seeing those women have opportunities to represent their country pushed her toward the same goal. As she matured in the game during summer ball and inched closer to collegiate ball, she recognized an opportunity that gave her the best chance to chase after her dream: junior college.
Rackel chose to play her first two years of college softball at Weatherford College, a JUCO program west of Fort Worth, Texas, nearly 2,000 miles away from her home.
“They had the best facilities I had ever seen. It was the nicest field ever. The coaches were awesome, and I really wanted to play my freshman year,” Rackel said. “I felt like it was a really good fit. I wasn't at the risk of having to redshirt for a year. I would always go JUCO, even if I had to redo it."
At Weatherford, she gained valuable experience, gathering 47 wins in 380 innings of work in the pitching circle over a two-year period. Rackel also earned JUCO All-America honors and led her team to a conference championship.
After her two-year stint in JUCO, Rackel believed she was equipped for Division-I play. At the time of her decision, she had a sizable amount of D-II offers, but only two D-I offers, which included the interest of Stephen F. Austin and Austin Peay. She chose Austin Peay, a program that had not finished with a winning record in 24 years.
Rackel believed her experience could help her become a part of the Austin Peay team that would change the trajectory of the program.
“I was actually really nervous coming in,” Rackel said. “I still faced really good players while at JUCO, which really helped with experience. I had postseason experience at Weatherford that I would not have (gotten) if I was at Austin Peay in my first two years. When I came in, I could be a leader in that sense."
With Rackel commanding the circle in 2018, Austin Peay put together one of the best single-season turnarounds in D-I softball, setting a program record with 39 wins, finishing second in the Ohio Valley Conference and clinching a spot in the conference tournament for the first time in 11 seasons.
In 2019, Rackel displayed more of the same results, despite being less of an unknown in the softball world.
“In my senior year, it was more of a mental game,” Rackel said. “It took a lot more focus. At the same time, they knew my name, so that fear could be instilled in them as well. I was already ahead of some of them in the mental game."
She gathered All-District and All-Region honors as a result of her senior campaign. As a Governor, Rackel finished 43–16 with a 1.68 ERA, tossing 384 innings in two seasons at Austin Peay.
Though she had an impressive career in college, Rackel always envisioned more for herself in softball. She wanted to play at the next level and knew she had the skills and the confidence to do it. But, she was not selected in the 2019 National Pro Fastpitch draft.
"I was pretty disappointed when I did not get drafted. There were signs, but in the end, it's just part of the game and part of the process," Rackel said.
She had no intention of calling it quits, though. Her goal was still in view.
She asked Austin Peay head coach Kassie Stanfill to connect with the Canadian Wild and Canada women’s national team head coach Mark Smith. For the NPF season, the Wild are calling Carbondale, Ill. home. Carbondale is a 2.5-hour drive from Austin Peay’s campus. Given the close proximity, Smith offered Rackel the chance to try out for the team.
She traveled, threw a bullpen, then left. On the drive back, Rackel received a call from Smith and accepted his invitation to join the Wild. She had earned her spot in the NPF.
As a rookie, Rackel has embraced her role on the Wild. She boasts a sub-1.00 ERA with more than 10 innings pitched so far this season.
"All of these players have so much experience," Rackel said. "Some of them are 30 years old and in the best shape of their lives while playing softball and doing what they love. It requires mental focus and trusting and knowing that I am good enough to be here, to be a contender and compete."
Canadian Wild Out For NPF Season Due To COVID-19 Concerns
The Canadian Wild will miss the 2020 NPF season due to COVID-19 concerns and travel restrictions.
Rackel’s performance with the Wild has translated into a vision she had imagined for years—being named a member of Team Canada.
“I was in shock,” Rackel said. “I came into this program expecting to get a few innings here and there just to get the experience and feel what it is like to be at this level and be in the environment of the team. To see my name on that roster and to have a chance to wear the Maple Leaf across my chest is unbelievable."
Softball parents sacrifice time, energy and resources to push their daughters forward in the game. Rackel’s very next call once she received the news that she made the national team was to her father, Lorne Rackel.
“The emotion swept away my hard cover,” Lorne said. “I was shaking and overwhelmed with happiness and pride. It is hard to explain the feeling you get when you see someone achieve a goal that they have been pursuing since they were six years old.”
The dream became a reality on Tuesday when the Canadian squad began its run at the 2019 Canada Cup. After the Canada Cup and some scheduled games in the NPF, Rackel and the Canadian national team will travel to Lima, Peru for the 2019 Pan American Games.
For Rackel, the road to the Canadian national team may have been unconventional, but she did it her own way.
“I have dreamed of this my entire life,” Rackel said. “I have made so many efforts to get here, and I am finally here.”