Three Australian softball players built up their career for years in Japan’s League
At Tokyo 2020, softball will be played as an Olympic sport for the first time in 13 years. Australian and Japanese teams have competed in friendly rivalry on the world stage for years and when the Australian and Japanese softball teams meet to play the first match of the Tokyo Games, it will be an even friendlier rivalry, as three of the Australian team are also on roster in the Japan Women’s Softball League this season.
‘Aussie Spirit’ captain Stacey Porter has played for 14 seasons with the SGH Galaxy Stars in Kyoto. The infielder is the only member of the team with Olympic experience, having played in the team that won bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games and silver at the 2004 Athens Games.
When Stacey was young she suffered from Perthes disease, which meant she was unable to play softball for two years, but she turned pain into strength and now has the record for representing Australia in international games of softball.
Tokyo promises to be an emotional time for Stacey, who lost her father recently.
“My dad was always one of my biggest supporters. He was a very proud man who had a beautiful soft side that I adored,” she said to Tokyo 2020.
“He has never missed an Olympic Games and I think it will be a little different without him in the stands in Tokyo but, I have no doubt he’s with me every step of the way. That’s just the kind of man he was.”
Her favourite words are “Do something because you love it, not because you have to!”, according to the Galaxy Stars’ website.
Congratulations to the G.O.A.T – Stacey Porter, 430 games for Australia. A world record for number of international games of any player in world softball #goat #believeinthespirit #apc2019 pic.twitter.com/FmB946VQXb
— Softball Australia (@SoftballOz) February 3, 2019
When Aussie Spirit touched down in Japan as the first foreign team after the postponement of the Tokyo Games, Ellen Roberts waved to media camera crews, stretching her arms. She belongs to the Ogaki Minamo Softball Club in Ogaki, Gifu.
Joining the Japanese club team in 2018, Ellen has mastered conversational Japanese and responded to media interviews very well online during the training camp at Ota, Gunma, revealing that she is a big fan of sweets from convenience stores. The fast ball pitcher will definitely provide a challenge for the Japanese national team batters. During the training camp, she caught up with her colleagues from Ogaki.
Kaia Parnaby has been playing alongside Stacey at the SGH Galaxy Stars in Japan for 8 years. The left-hander earned 67 strikeouts in 2014, her rookie year in Japan, and then recorded 98 strikeouts in 2018, making it her best season. Amazingly, she reached her 500th career strikeout in Japan last September. During the Asia/Oceania Olympic Qualifier for Tokyo 2020, she pitched in three of the Aussie Spirit’s five games, where the team went undefeated.
Her longest break from the circle hasn’t slowed down @kaialynette 💪💪
— Softball Australia (@SoftballOz) September 14, 2020
The team has trained in Ota City, Gunma every year since 2018. The players and coaches are so grateful for the support from the city, even though they have been unable to join events with the local community due to Covid-19 prevention measures.
It’s one month to go until the #Tokyo2020
“Aussie Spirit” players Kaia and Belinda are looking forward to their first game in Fukushima on 21 July!@SoftballOz @AUSOlympicTeam @kaialynette#AusRally pic.twitter.com/JG8x3uYp1y
— オーストラリア大使館 Australia in Japan (@AustraliaInJPN) June 23, 2021
At the 2008 Beijing Games, the Aussie Spirit took on the Japanese national team twice, where they lost by one. Australia and Japan will meet again at Tokyo 2020, playing an early match in Fukushima on 21 July. Watch out for Stacey, Ellen and Kaia.