Like many elite softball players, Nick Shailes has had to travel far and wide to pursue his dreams. In Shailes’ case, some of those venues have been places that many people would struggle to find on a map.
To say Shailes is well-travelled is an understatement. In the past few years his softball talent has taken him all over North America, including places such as Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; South Bend, Indiana; and Kitchener, Ontario, among others.
Most recently, Shailes was a key member of the Hill United Chiefs, based in Six Nations, Ontario, who won the International Softball Congress (ISC) world title in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Before that, the second baseman helped the Aussie Steelers win a silver medal at the WBSC Men’s Softball World Championship in Whitehorse, Yukon.
At the ISC tournament, the Chiefs compiled a 6-0 win-loss record and totally dominated, as evidenced by their runs for-runs against tally of 45-1. It was their fourth championship win in the past five years.
While Shailes did his bit to contribute, it was fellow Australian Adam Folkard who led the way. Folkard capped off an amazing week with a two-hit shutout in the final to help lead the Chiefs to a 5-0 win over the JB Bombers.
“It’s a great tournament,” Shailes says. “It brings together 34 teams once a year as they get together to play for a world title. They play double elimination until there’s only one left.”
A few weeks earlier, Shailes felt the highs and lows of elite sport when he helped the Steelers earn World Championship silver medals. “That was amazing. Being vice-captain of your country is an honour, and being able to represent your country is always an amazing experience.”
Silver medals in any sport can be a mixed blessing. A great achievement, yes, but how does it feel to come so close to being world champions? “If you’d asked me a month ago, I’d have said it was disappointing, but now it’s more a feeling of pride in what we achieved,” Shailes says.
“We had to beat Canada just to get to the championship game, and they were the heavy favourites leading into the tournament.
“It was a really good effort by all the guys, especially with the young team we had. We finished with silver medals. Plenty of other teams wish they could be in our situation.”
In Whitehorse, Shailes did more than his share of the heavy lifting He led the team in batting average (.458), home runs (6) and slugging (1.250).
In the final against New Zealand, Shailes had a home run and two walks as the Steelers lost 6-4.
Little wonder that Aussie Steelers Head Coach Laing Harrow sings his praises. “Nick is very passionate about the game of softball,” Harrow says. “He consistently competes at a high level and sets a really high standard of play on the diamond.”
Harrow is clearly not the only one to rate Shailes so highly. in 2016 he was voted by Fastpitch World Media as the top- ranked men’s player in the world.
Not bad for a kid from Lismore, NSW, who took up the game at the age of four to follow in the footsteps of his mother.
Shailes, 32, now lives near Six Nations, working for the company that sponsors the Chiefs. And he has no plans to return to Australia anytime soon. He and his wife have work visas that allow them to stay in Canada until at least 2020 and they plan to apply for residency.
But that doesn’t mean he is abandoning Australia. With some players retiring, a lot of responsibility will fall to Shailes as the Steelers prepare for the 2019 WBSC Men’s Softball World Championship in Prague.
“We have a lot of young talent coming through and I think we can definitely put a good team together for Prague in two years time,” he says.