Lauren Bay Regula thought a genetic twist of fate had ended her dream of an Olympic medal.
A Bath, Ohio, resident, Bay Regula wanted to pitch for the Canadian national softball team in the 2019 Pan American Games, a step on the road to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Now 38, she was a member of Team Canada at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and in 2008 in Beijing.
But while at camp, she learned she had a 50% chance of a gene mutation that had come up positive in her direct family. With the answer unknown until March, sports plunged on the priority list for the married mother of three.
Bay Regula’s results came up negative, but last April she still called coach Mark Smith and told him it wasn’t the right time for her to compete. She thought her international athletic career was over.
“As soon as I got off the phone, I was really sad. I told my husband, ‘I know for a fact I just gave up an opportunity at an Olympic medal,’ ” Bay Regula said.
“Something that was so ingrained in part of me and my passion for my whole life until I had kids. I knew when I said that, or I was pretty certain of it anyways, that that was my last shot.”
In mid-November, Team Canada announced Bay Regula was one of 21 players invited to training camp and competing for 15 spots for the 2020 Games, which run July 24-Aug. 9. She left Monday, her wedding anniversary, for Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the invitees will work for the first two months.
If Bay Regula is chosen for Tokyo, she will turn 39 on the day of the closing ceremonies.
Her age has barely crossed her mind. But when she learned Smith wanted her back, there was much deliberation. She and her husband, Dave Regula, a Walsh Jesuit graduate, own TrAk Athletics, a fitness facility in Fairlawn. Their children, ages 10, 9 and 7, are heavily involved in sports. Bay Regula hadn’t thrown since December 2018; she hadn’t competed for Canada since the 2016 WBSC Women’s World Softball Championship.
It wasn’t until after the 2016 worlds that softball was reinstated for the 2020 Olympics, with the host county allowed to add sports popular in Japan.
But the stars aligned as a combination of logistics and circumstance made it possible for Bay Regula to attend Olympic training. With the only scheduled team breaks in March and May, Smith is allowing Bay Regula to have a two-week-on, two-week-off schedule for the first two months, which means she can come home.
Part of the training will be held in British Columbia, where Bay Regula’s family still lives, so her children can visit. After spending April in Fresno, California, and a pre-Olympic tour of Japan in May, Team Canada will play an exhibition schedule against professional teams in the U.S. that includes stops in Cleveland and Chicago, more opportunities for the Regulas to be together.
Revere Local Schools don’t start until Sept. 7, meaning Bay Regula will have about a month with her children after she returns from Tokyo, presuming she makes the team.
The Regulas have a nanny, Savannah Zakich, who lives in Akron and can help Dave while Lauren is away. Bay Regula also needed a catcher and didn’t want Dave to add that to his plate, as he had before the 2016 worlds. Taking his place was Victoria Rumph, softball coach at the College of Wooster and another member of Team Canada.
When Bay Regula resumed throwing in October, she scheduled three sessions a week with Rumph at Wooster.“We had kind of lost touch. I didn’t know who the 21 athletes are. When it came out, I was like, ‘You have got to be kidding me,’ ” Bay Regula said of Rumph during a Jan. 25 phone interview. “I was telling Dave, ‘School starts later, I have a catcher here.’ It’s almost like when you’re watching a TV show and everything … or the light turns green.
“I was putting all these pieces together like, ‘Oh, my gosh, that works out.’”
With all those factors in her favor, the decision still took time.
Dave Regula, a former kicker at Dartmouth and a stock trader in Chicago for 15 years, admitted he was relieved after the 2016 worlds. When the Olympic camp invitation came, he didn’t think it was good idea because things were going well for their business and their family.
“It was a knock-down, drag-out couple weeks,” Regula said by phone Jan. 25.
“She had the email queued up, like ‘I’m not going to play.’ I said, ‘Don’t send it; don’t send it.’
“I woke up one day, I got up before everyone else and I was drinking coffee. I just had a feeling, my mind was cleared and I’m like, ‘She has to do this. This isn’t about me and the kids or anybody. This is her truth. This is her story. She operates on her highest level as a human being when she’s playing softball. She has to play.’”
That settled, the Regulas decided to make the most of the opportunity and have their children involved as much as possible.“Luckily we do have help and we were able to work it out and he’s on board as much as I am,” Bay Regula said.
“If he wasn’t, that would be a recipe for resentment.”
As for the physical part of competing with and against women who could biologically be her children, Bay Regula found one of the biggest challenges to be rest versus working out, especially after a recent night when one of the kids threw up for five hours.
The Canadian players have wrist fitness trackers that show what the other team members are doing and some of them have been sleeping 10 hours a night. Regula said his wife also hurt her hip last year.
But Regula said even those who see Lauren at TrAk Athletics don’t realize what kind of athlete she is.“She’ll never tell you this, but at one point she was in the top handful of pitchers in the world at her sport,” Regula said.
“Being in the top three or four teams in the top pitchers, she’s still in the top 15. That’s an all-star in a pro sport. They don’t come around. There’s not anyone like her physically as a female that I’ve ever met.
“You see her, she mingles at the soccer game with the moms, then you see her in the gym and, holy God, she’s a freak.”
Rumph, 28, said Bay Regula does not look her age.“Some of my players see her around and I tell them that she’s played in a couple of Olympics and they’re like, ‘No way, coach,’ ” Rumph said by phone Friday. “My girls are like, ‘She had three kids?’ She’s in phenomenal shape. She’s an ultimate athlete.
“Our girls are in awe of her and how smooth she is, too, when she throws. It’s just a thing of beauty.”
Pitching to Rumph, Bay Regula said they built up to 90-minute sessions, which included throwing for 45 to 75 minutes on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.“
I don’t feel 38. There’s a part of me that’s just living in my old glory days,” said Bay Regula, who played for the Chicago Bandits and the Philadelphia Force in the National Pro Fastpitch League.
“Don’t get me wrong. After throwing bullpens, I’m definitely feeling I’m not the young buck that I was. But mentally, I haven’t given my age a whole lot of thought.“
I don’t ever have any doubts about making the team … I’ve always approached going into every softball camp very positively. I’m also aware that I’ve played one season in the last 12 seasons.”
Her confidence high, Bay Regula hopes for an Olympic medal. Canada finished fifth in the 2004 Olympics, fourth in 2008. Regula agreed that seeing his wife’s team medal in Tokyo would be the perfect ending. Her highest finish in international competition came at the 2016 worlds, where she started the bronze medal-clinching game.
“It’s funny, I thought that last time at worlds,” Regula said. “Another chance to even do it bigger. It would be crazy. At her age. It is incredible.”
As she prepared to depart, Bay Regula texted Friday that she is “pretty pumped.” She knows she’s not approaching this chance with “one foot in and one foot out.”
“What’s funny is like I’ve pictured it a million times. Even when I knew I wasn’t on the team and when I said no last year, I was like a fragile human being at that point,” she said of Olympic glory.
“Honestly, I’ve pictured it since 2002 … when I officially made the women’s senior team. I feel like I can see that moment. I’ve seen it for so long. And it never went away …”