Autumn Mills armed and ready in both her day job and with Team Canada

Autumn Mills armed and ready in both her day job and with Team Canada

The arm. That’s what everyone first noticed when they saw Autumn Mills, the small girl with the big-time cannon. What no one knew then was it would be that very arm which would eventually carry her to success on the international stage.

“It’s something you hear a lot, but it really does seem like yesterday that I was just starting out,” said the Toronto-born Mills, a member of the women’s national baseball team set to compete at the Pan Am Games. “It’s gone by quickly.”

Less than two weeks before turning 27, Mills is one of three players (Kate Psota and Ashley Stephenson are the others) who have 10 years or more experience on the national squad.

Since being selected to the Canadian women’s national team at the age of 16, Mills has competed in five World Cups and taken home three medals, including silver in 2008.

Four years ago at the World Cup in Edmonton, Mills enjoyed one of her finest moments of her career when she earned the save after closing out the bronze-medal victory over Australia.

“You do relive those moments, especially a meaningful one like that,” she recalled. “I remember it ended on a strikeout and that it was a change-up.”

That melancholy side of Mills, however, doesn’t last long, usurped instead by a lifelong competitive drive, a will to win that fuels her whenever she’s called upon.

“The gold is what we wanted,” she flatly stated. “That was the goal and we weren’t able to attain it. So, one part of you is proud to say you earned a medal. The other part of you wishes you won it all.”

Second only to Psota (11-10) in years of service on the Pan Am edition of Team Canada, Mills has embraced her role as mentor to the team’s less seasoned players, happy to share stories of her formative years wearing the red and white uniform.

“There’s so much pressure at this level,” she noted. “I remember playing in my first World Cup in 2006. I could barely stand up I was no nervous. My legs were absolutely shaking. So, if I’m talking to any of the younger players, I tell them that story and just how I felt. You want them to know you’re supposed to feel like that. You also want them to know that changes and you get to a comfort level the more you play, the more you face those ups and downs.”

It’s a philosophy that’s served Mills well beyond the diamond.

A standout student-athlete over five seasons with York University’s women’s hockey team from 2006-2011, Mills, a top three in team scoring in each of her final three seasons while serving as an assistant captain, also earned Canadian Interuniversity Sport academic all-Canadian honours on four occasions.

Chosen as the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) 2011 Marion Hillard Award recipient for her contributions in hockey, academics and community involvement, Mills was York’s selection for the OUA Woman of Influence in 2009.

Mills, who graduated from York in 2011 with degrees in both kinesiology and health science and education, is also a Halton Region police officer.

All of which begs the question: Is there anything she can’t do?

“I’ve been very lucky,” she said with a laugh. “You don’t have a lot of time to look back and realize you’ve had a lot of great experiences, but when you do, you’re grateful for them.”

As for her police career, finding a balance between keeping the city of Burlington safe and reaching first base safely can present its challenges.

“It’s a demanding job,” said Mills, who has been an officer for the past two years. “It’s not out of the norm to work a 12-hour shift, get an hour’s sleep, and then play in a game.”

Yet, long hours and long days haven’t diminishd her love of baseball and the pride that comes with representing her country.

“Looking back, I didn’t really foresee this opportunity to play for Canada, but it happened,” said Mills. “And, to see women’s baseball being a Pan Am sport for the first time (also a first for an international multi-sport Games), it’s unbelievable.”

Mills has seen plenty of changes to women’s baseball, both on and off the field, over the years. There has been one constant, however.

“I’m still that kid that gets upset if it rains and the game gets cancelled.”

Which is why Mills has earned her rightful reputation for being armed and ready when everything is on the line.

The Canadian women open their Pan Am tournament against Cuba on July 20 in Ajax.


Favourite motto: “Luck is the residue of hard work.”

Admires smaller guys in MLB such as Dustin Pedroia who make big plays and hit the ball with power despite their size… Superstition: The ball must be on the ground before pitching; if someone throws it she puts it down, walks around the mound and takes a deep breath before picking it up… Has a good luck Pandora bracelet with baseball charms on her left wrist… Always travels with a lacrosse ball… Collects different Starbucks city mugs.