The Pan American Games, or Pan Am Games, is a major summer sporting event that takes place every four years and the summer before the Olympic Summer Games. The athletes come from the Americas, and include all 28 sports featured in the Summer Olympics.
When I was approached 2 years ago to be a volunteer for the Games, I’ll admit I had no idea what they were. At that point, I had heard of all of the changes Toronto and the surrounding areas were making for the games, but I still wasn’t 100% sure what they were or if I’d eventually volunteer. I could have never realized at that point when I was asked to participate just how large the games are, or how they would impact my summer.
It became a family affair for me, as I volunteered along with my mother, who was on the softball committee and head of the score booth for softball, and my father, who was also in the score booth.
We ended up in Ajax at the softball and baseball location, which was one of the venues that had competitions every day of the games.
The number of volunteers at our venue was astounding, and a sold out crowd at the Rogers Centre could only challenge the enthusiasm and energy that I saw everyday from my fellow volunteers. Everyone came with a smile on their face, and even the sweltering heat couldn’t discourage the positive attitudes.
The teams at baseball and softball came to play, and every game was a great show of sportsmanship, talent, and just an enjoyable atmosphere to be in.
At our venue, Canada took home a medal in all four competitions. Canadian men and women fastball teams took home gold, with Canadian men taking home the gold in baseball and the Canadian women taking home silver. This was the first time women's baseball was included in the games, and the Canadian woman did an amazing job for it being their first year competing! I was privileged to hear my countries anthem twice at the end of the gold medal game, and it’s still one of my best memories from volunteering.
During my time volunteering, I was also lucky enought to meet a former Toronto Blue Jay player by the name of Robbie Alomar who was on the men’s baseball coaching staff for the Puerto Rico team. My parents jokingly refer to him as my namesake, as the team won the World Series the year Alomar started playing for them and the year I was born.
Whenever I’m asked how the games were, I always say they were an experience. I spent 10+ hours a day at my venue, and even ended up with a heat rash at one point. I traded so many pins with other volunteers, I can’t remember which I got from who. I met Pachi, the mascot for the Games, and learned a lot about athletes from other countries. I reconnected with old friends, and made a lot of new ones. Even all of the complaining from Torontonians couldn’t affect my volunteering experience (even though there was a lot).
From the moment I agreed to volunteer to the moment I walked off my venue for the last time, it was an experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world.