Softball Australia will take on new geography and a new name for their 2019 season in the National Pro Fastpitch league.
Under the title of Aussie Peppers of Minnesota, the team will play out of Caswell Park in North Mankato, Minnesota in their second season of professional softball in the United States.
Known in the league throughout their inaugural season of 2018 as the Aussie Spirit, the team is comprised of players who are also members of the Travelodge Aussie Spirit, Australia’s national team. In 2018, the team tallied a 16-32 record in the league and a third place finish overall in the regular season.
Aussie Peppers of Minnesota is the creation of a new partnership between Softball Australia and the youth nonprofit softball organization known as the Mankato Peppers, with the latter acting as home host throughout 2019. Other key partners in North Mankato include Bethel College, acting as the training partner for the team, and the distinguished Mayo Clinic, as the sports medicine partner.
“Softball Australia is eager to play our second season of professional softball from our new home location of North Mankato,” commented Softball Australia CEO, David Pryles.
“The Peppers organization has been extremely welcoming to our team and committed to helping us compete professionally while also best prepare for the WBSC Asia/Oceania Olympic Qualifier event which will follow the conclusion of the 2019 NPF season. The next 12 months are crucial to our High Performance department and the NPF is going to play a pivotal role in developing our elite athletes against first class talent.”
“We realize we have been offered a unique and incredible opportunity to promote the game of softball to our community, as well as the entire state of Minnesota,” said Matt Mangulis, General Manager of the Aussie Peppers. “With this venture, the Peppers organization will focus on building a brand of world class professional softball that embraces our roots in youth softball, promotes diversity, equality, and brings benefit to our community overall. Our vision is to provide young girls with the ability to identify with professional athletes, an identity we know will build confidence and self esteem and inspire these girls to dream and attain their own aspirations.”
The Mankato Peppers brought professional softball to North Mankato for the first time in 2018 when they hosted an NPF regular season series between the Chicago Bandits and Beijing Shougang Eagles. That series packed Caswell Park with an enthusiastic audience despite inclement weather, and allowed North Mankato to welcome home one of their own, Colie Ries, a former Mankato Pepper turned Chicago Bandit.
Founded by Jerry Maschka in 1982, the Mankato Peppers are celebrating 37 years as a youth softball organization. The Mankato Peppers membership is comprised of 400+ local girls from ages 5 to 18. Over the 37 year history, the Peppers have had 76 former players go on to play at the collegiate level, and two go on to play professionally in the NPF – Coley Ries, approaching her third pro season, second with Chicago; and Ann Steffan, selected 19th in the 2005 NPF Draft and named All NPF in 2006, also with the Chicago Bandits.
The Mankato Peppers are also partnering with other Southern Minnesota youth softball organizations such as Cardinal Power (Fairmont, MN) and James Gang (St. James, MN). Much of the initial hosting partnership will be youth softball. Together the organizations anticipated to be engaged by the Aussie Peppers, total approximately 1600 youth member/players, all who will be able to call the Aussie Peppers their team.
The Travelodge Aussie Spirit, is a team that has had broad success throughout their history, particularly in the Olympic Games, perched on the medal stand for every single Olympics of which softball has been included (1996-2008). The team seeks to win the Asia-Pacific qualifier in the fall of 2019 to be among the six team 2020 Olympic field in Tokyo.
The NPF will lead off its 16th season in May. The complete 2019 regular season schedule will be released following the annual league Winter Meetings held this week in Nashville.