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Road to 2020 Olympics: Softball Australia partners with USA’s pro softball league to strengthen programme

posted Feb 22, 2017, 6:23 PM by Unknown user

Road to 2020 Olympics: Softball Australia partners with USA’s pro softball league to strengthen programme

Australia’s national governing body of softball and WBSC Member, Softball Australia, has partnered with USA’s National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) for the 2017 season and beyond for eight elite Australian women’s softball athletes to play for the Chicago Bandits franchise. The agreement also allows Australian high-performance coaches to work with the Bandits’ coaching staff during the season.

“This partnership between Softball Australia and National Pro Fastpitch is a critical step forward for our women’s high-performance program looking towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” Softball Australia CEO Chet Gray said.

Australia is currently No. 4 in the WBSC Women’s Softball World Rankings.

“Our program needs to focus firstly on improving our performance from the 2016 [WBSC] World Championship and then on qualifying for the Olympic Games.

“This agreement with the Chicago Bandits and NPF will ensure that many of our identified athletes have a chance to participate as a team together in one of the best competitions in the world,” Gray continued.

In 2016, Aussie Spirit players Vanessa Stokes, Stacey Porter, Chelsea Forkin and Taylah Tsitsikronis played in the NPF. The experience proved invaluable to those players in the lead-up to the WBSC Women’s Softball World Championship.

With eight more players to join the league this year, most of the Aussie Spirit squad will be getting high-level professional competition and daily training under the guidance of expert coaches in the lead-up to the 2018 Women’s Softball World Championship and any subsequent Olympic qualifying events.

The National Pro Fastpitch, an Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball since 2002, is a five-team league that takes place June through August in the United States. The NPF, with franchises in Akron, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, and Orlando, features players from the USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

In 2017 NPF regular season action, 120 games are scheduled leading up the Championship Series, held in mid-August. Regular season action will conclude August 13, with the top four finishers moving onto the Championship Series.

The 2017 season will be the Bandits 13th season in the NPF, who play their home games at the Ballpark at Rosemont, the only stadium in the USA built for a women’s professional sports team. They have been NFP champions four times, including the previous two seasons.

Softball’s profile continues to rise, as last year, the Houston-based Scrap Yard Dawgs signed the first million-dollar contract with Olympian Monica Abbott.