‘It’s a tough day, but a good day’: Prince Albert Aces officially retire Shaye Amundson’s jersey number

A group of Shaye Amundson’s former coaches and teammates gather around a pair of framed jersey’s during the ceremony to retire Amundson’s No. 2 at the Max Power Ball Parks on Friday, May 31. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

When Madison Garchinski thinks about Shaye Amundson, the first thing that comes to mind is enthusiasm.

Garchinski, a former Prince Albert Aces softball player and current First Base Coach for the Lakeland U17 Blaze, spent three seasons playing with Amundson, who died tragically at 18-years-old. Whether it was on the diamond or off it, Garchinski said Amundson was always full of energy.

“I’ve never met somebody who’s so enthusiastic, so bubbly, and just loved everything about life,” Garchinski said. “(She) loved playing (and) loved her teammates. Every experience with Shaye was just always something funny, whether it was her dancing in the dugout—she had spoons, she would play spoons in the dugout…. (She was) just the best human.”

After Amundson’s passing in 2016, the Prince Albert and area softball community banded together to create the Shaye Amundson Memorial Tournament in her honour. They started the We Play for Shaye Campaign, and by 2017 had raised enough money to name one of the Max Power Ball Park fields after her.

In 2022, the Prince Albert Minor Softball Association (PAMSA) handed out the first Shaye Amundson Memorial Scholarships, and on Friday night they added to the list of commemorations by officially retiring Amundson’s No. 2 jersey across all age groups.

“Shaye was one of those players where something like this would have meant the world to her,” said Garchinski, who was among several of Amundson’s former teammates and coaches in attendance. “She was one of those teammates who everybody smiled around and would love the celebration.”

Players competing in this year’s tournament lined up along the first and third base lines for the retirement ceremony at Rotary Field prior to the last three games of the tournament’s opening day. Meanwhile, Amundson’s former coaches and teammates joined her family at the centre of the ball diamond for the official unveiling.

“It’s a tough day, but it’s a good day,” said Jenn Ferguson, one of Amundson’s former coaches. “I spent lots of time thinking about her today.”

Ferguson coached Amundson for six years with the Aces. During the ceremony, she spoke about what it was like to coach Amundson, and what it means to see her number retired.

“You want to celebrate Shaye and want to make sure the girls who are playing with Aces jerseys on understand what a big part of the program she was and why we’re celebrating her today,” Ferguson said in an interview afterwards. “I’m just so thankful I got to be part of her short life.”

Minor softball players from who competed in the evening games that followed Friday’s closing ceremony pose for a photo with Shaye Amundson’s family and former teammates and coaches following the official jersey retirement ceremony. — Photo submitted by Stephanie Ripplinger.

Amundson’s parents were among the family members who attended Friday’s ceremony. Melanie Amundson, Shaye’s mother, said it’s great to see the Memorial Tournament thrive, and an honour to have Shaye’s number retired.

“It was emotional, especially having lots of her teammates there with us,” Melanie said. “We haven’t seen them a while. In the softball community, you spend a lot of time with them. They become your family, so I think that was probably one of the better parts.”

The Amundsons are still involved in the local softball scene, primarily through Shaye’s younger sister Rhyan, a former Aces player who graduated to the U19 level this year.

Melanie said it’s great to see some of Rhyan’s old teammates still playing at the tournament, and great to see the softball community putting the Max Power Ball Park diamonds to good use.

She’s also thankful for the Prince Albert softball community, which has never forgotten Shaye or her family.

“It’s not easy, obviously, when you lose a child,” Melanie said, “but the support that we’ve had from our Aces families and our community, it really does help.”