By Joseph Casciaro
At the age of 23, Mariana Fox can vividly recall her childhood in Toronto, where she used to play hockey, go swimming and found her love for athletics.
A journey back to the city where her love for sports all started, Fox calls the Ryerson Rams fastpitch team her home.
Put up for adoption shortly after she was born in Arad, Romania, Fox would be adopted by her parents in Toronto, moving to the city at age two.
By the age of eight, Fox’s family emigrated to Israel so her mother could be reunited with her two brothers.
“It was a huge culture shock, even though it was my own culture, which is ironic,” she said.
She found that the city of Ra’anana had similarities to North America. Israel had similar curriculum structures to Toronto and offered a double curriculum with Hebrew and English classes that Fox enrolled in.
But one thing that Fox did not have while attending school in Israel was the opportunity to participate in sports.
“Living [in Toronto], you’ve got the cold weather, the seasons, the sports—[and] different seasons for different sports,” said Fox. “There’s no seasons [in Israel] the way there is here.”
From a young age in Toronto, Fox looked to find ways to get involved with sports outside of school. In her new home of Israel, that didn’t happen until the age of 10.
“I was in baseball first, but I was actually kicked off the team because I was a girl,” she said. “Once I reached a certain age, they suggested softball.”
Fox didn’t let this deter her and decided to turn the situation into a positive one, by looking for ways to get involved in softball. She played in little leagues in Israel, but at the age of 14, she didn’t know if she wanted to play softball anymore.
“Israel did not and still doesn’t have the proper funding [for softball],” said Fox. “Eventually I actually didn’t want to progress in softball because I really liked where I was, but I had a few coaches that really said: ‘Let’s go.’”
With her coaches pushing her to compete, Fox stayed on the junior team until she was 18, where she was selected to play for the Israeli National Softball Team. Playing for the national team—on the country’s highest stage—was all Fox could have ever imagined.
“To have a title where you’re part of your country, in a social-political way, is something you can’t fathom,” said Fox. “Even when you’re in it, you can’t really understand it because the responsibility and honour to do something like that is off the charts.”
“I take that everywhere I go and any jersey I put on, I represent the name. It makes you worth more than yourself,” she said.
At the age of 21, Fox decided to return to Toronto, wanting to experience Canada again. Not intending to go to university at first, she planned to play softball in Canada and get international work experience.
Now studying urban and regional planning, she found not just a home at Ryerson, but with the fastpitch team.
“She’s a very hard worker and a very determined person,” said Rams fastpitch head coach Wayne Nishihama. “She would go through the wall for you. We knew that she was determined and wanted to be on this team.”
In just her first few months on campus, Fox has her sights set high for the future—and that doesn’t only include softball.
“I obviously want to be a [urban] planner, get my degree and eventually start working in the field, but potentially, I [might] want to use this degree to get into politics,” said Fox.
But being a part of the Ryerson’s fastpitch team has helped Fox realize why she still plays the sport after all these years, crediting her teammates and coaches for helping her love the game more than ever.
“[I forgot the reason I was playing] and the importance to me of playing ball,” said Fox. “It was never about [winning]…but rather, softball gave me a family.”