When eight Australian players join the Chicago Bandits in the US professional league this year, they won’t be the only ones in unfamiliar territory.
The Bandits, reigning champions of the National Pro Fastpitch league, have appointed a new coach. University of Florida assistant coach Sharonda McDonald has been named head coach of the Bandits for the 2017 season.
They will also have eight Australian players, who will join the Bandits this season after a landmark deal was struck between Softball Australia CEO Chet Gray and NPF Commissioner Cheri Kempf.
“We are excited to have Sharonda McDonald join the Bandits’ program,” general manager Toni Calmeyn said.
“She comes highly recommended by her peers and when it came to filling our head coaching position, she was the first and foremost candidate that we looked at when going through this process.”
The Houston, Texas native is no stranger to the level of competition in the NPF as she spent six seasons as a professional in the league. In 2014, McDonald played her final season with the USSSA Pride after enjoying 2010-12 campaigns with the Akron Racers and 2007-08 seasons with the Philadelphia force. She spent the 2009 season playing with the Fiorini Softball Club of the Italian Professional League.
A three-time All-NPF selection during her career, McDonald won the prestigious Diamond Spikes Award in 2012 after hitting .303 with 13 stolen bases while with the Racers. She concluded the 2014 season with a career batting average over .270 to go along with over 100 runs scored, capping off her playing career with a Cowles Cup championship as a member of the Pride.
“I am humbled and excited to be back as part of the NPF and such a historic program like the Bandits organisation,” McDonald said.
“After having spent several years in the league as a player, to have the chance to gain more experience working with so many talented players is something that I look forward to in the coming months.”
Considered as one of the brightest young minds in the game, McDonald has made strides in each of her four different coaching stops which includes Texas Tech (2015; associate head coach), LSU (2013-14; volunteer assistant), Ohio (2010-12; assistant coach) and Texas Southern (2008; assistant coach).