Play for pay: Chelsea charges into a pro career

Chelsea Forkin races to first base in the Red Terriers series in Sydney. Pictures courtesy of Sam Donkin Photography

Play for pay: Chelsea charges into a pro career

Chelsea Forkin has a message to any Australian softball players who want to try their luck in the US professional league: get out of your comfort zone and go for it.

Forkin was one of four Aussie Spirit members to play in the National Pro Fastpitch League this year. After one season with the Dallas Charge, she is already looking forward to having another crack next year. And she hopes to see more Australian faces around the league.

“My experience in Dallas was sensational,” Forkin says. “I definitely learnt a lot playing overseas and being in that playing environment.”

Chelsea ForkinHer Dallas teammate Vanessa Stokes, plus Pennsylvania Rebellion players Stacey Porter and Taylah Tsitsikronis, made up the Australian contingent in the league in 2016. But Forkin believes anyone who gets an opportunity to join the NPF should jump at the chance.

“Yes, 100 per cent. It puts you out of your comfort zone as a player because you’re going into new environments that you’re not used to, so you get tested. It’s great to go through that experience and play with high-quality players against other high-quality players.

“I’d definitely recommend it to any of the Australian players if they get the opportunity.”

Playing three games a week over a 50-game season was a difficult  assignment, but Forkin had no complaints. “Dallas itself was very hot, so playing conditions were tough. But the people were lovely and my teammates really warmed to me.

“In a way it’s like playing Nationals, in terms of playing a lot of games in a row. But it was a different workload. I was certainly doing a lot more than what I had done before. We would play three games a week at home, then go out and play on the road – quite different to how it is back here in Australia playing club ball.

“It’s international-quality softball all the time. You know you’re playing a good team every single game. There are no teams that make you think you can have a day off, where’s it’s going to be easy. The competition is quality, the pitching is quality, the batting is quality, so you’re getting really good competition every single game.”

The Charge finished  their second season of competition with a 20-30 win-loss record, a four-win improvement on their debut season, while the Rebellion finished at 17-33 overall.

Originally from Perth, Forkin moved to Brisbane in 2009 “just for a change” and went to university there.

Chelsea Forkin“I really love it in Brisbane. I loved Perth, where all my family are, but I’ve been here since 2009 and it really works for me.”

Having signed for two years, she is looking forward to returning to the Charge for a second season. And after that? “I’d like to keep going back, but I have a career here (as a health and physical education teacher) and it really depends if it’s maintainable.”

As if her 2016 professional schedule, plus playing for the Aussie Spirit at the Softball World Championship in Canada, wasn’t demanding enough, Forkin also won a place in the Australian women’s baseball team at the World Championship in South Korea.

That meant she joined a select group of athletes who have represented their country in two different sports at world championships in the same year. Her close friend Leigh Godfrey managed the same feat two years ago, but other examples are hard to find.

In softball and baseball it’s pretty much the same approach physically and mentally,” Forkin says. “You have to be mentally switched on. I don’t change my approach in terms of how I play baseball and how I play softball.”

In baseball or softball, Forkin, 27, has played just about everywhere on the diamond. Her versatility is an asset for coaches, with Aussie Spirit Head Coach Fabian Barlow among her fans.

“Chelsea has been a long-time member of the team,” Barlow says. “She has played several positions since making the Aussie Spirit team and always played them to a high international level. Chelsea is very well respected within the Spirit group and from teams around the world.”