When Erin Thras next steps up to bat for the Aussie Spirit, she will bring a new approach to the plate.
And if that plate appearance happens to be with runners on base and the game on the line, then so much the better.
That’s because Thras has been there, done that, and has already tasted success in high-pressure situations.
An outfielder on the 2014 Spirit team in the Netherlands, Thras admits she was a bit overawed by the occasion. But that won’t be an issue when she takes the field for the Spirit in the 2016 Softball World Championship in Surrey, British Columbia, next month.
“It was an eye opener,” she says of the 2014 tournament. “My composure went out the door. After it was over I did some soul searching and realised I’m not the baby of the team any more. I developed a new approach.”
Thras is confident that new approach, combined with her 2014 experience, will help her and her team in Canada.
“I’m really excited, of course,” she says. “But it’s a different kind of excitement compared with last time. In 2014 it was nerve-racking, really scary. This time I’m going away at least half-knowing what I’m getting into. I’m excited, but not so nervous. I just want to get on the plane.”
If the Spirit find themselves batting in the final inning in a close game, they will be hoping Thras is coming up to bat. She has the score on the board, having produced a memorable pinch-hit grand slam to win an extra-inning game against the Toyota Red Terriers in Sydney earlier this year.
It was a moment for which she had mentally prepared herself, not just at the time but for many years previously. “I live for those moments,” she says. “I wanted to be that person, wanted to be in that situation. And I didn’t want to fail.”
What goes through a player’s mind when she comes up to bat in such a high-leverage situation? In Thras’s case, not much.
“I’m not the strongest, fastest or quickest player, but I can hit,” she says.
“I figured the opportunity might come up and I started preparing myself the inning before. To be honest, I wasn’t really thinking anything in particular. I was just in the moment, reacting rather than thinking. There was no need to think too much because I was ready to hit anything that was thrown at me.”
Thras, who is about to turn 26, still remembers when she first picked up a softball at Morayfield Primary School in Queensland. Soon after that she joined the Wildcats of the Caboolture Softball Association, and so launched a softball career that has already reached great heights and is showing no signs of slowing down.
If all goes according to plan, Thras will be a member of the Australian Olympic team in 2020. For her to have that chance, the IOC will have to reinstate softball at a vote to be taken on August 4.
“I’d love to be part of the Olympics,” she says. It’s every kid’s childhood dream.
“If softball got back in it would reignite my childhood fantasy. Previously I was just in that wrong age group. By the time I was old enough to play, softball was no longer in the Olympics, so I’ve never been part of that type of program.”
For that reason, Thras has declared she will put off having children until at least after the Olympics.
“I have to get my priorities right. There’s no guarantee that I’ll get another chance, so I have to give myself the best opportunity of playing in the 2020 Games.”