Australia’s international softball players face an exciting and busy few months ahead — none more so than Taylah Tsitsikronis.
Tsitsikronis left Australia last week to join the Pennsylvania Rebellion in the National Professional Fastpitch League.
If that’s not a big enough challenge, she will take a mid-season break from the pro league to travel to Oklahoma City for the World Cup of Softball, then on to Canada to represent Australia at the Women’s World Softball Championship in Surrey, British Columbia.
But first things first. The Rebellion plays a three-month regular season that takes in cities including Chicago, Dallas and Akron in a 54-game regular season that starts on May 31.
To say Tsitsikronis is looking forward to the opportunity would be an understatement.
She admits her excitement level is tempered by some nervousness, but she’ll have plenty of support to ease any concerns. For a start, one of her teammates at the Rebellion will be fellow Australian Stacey Porter, a vastly experienced international who has played at an elite level for more than a decade, highlighted by an Olympic silver medal in 2004.
“It will be a great to have another Aussie on the team,” says Tsitsikronis. “I did ask her a few questions about playing in a pro league, and she was really helpful. Knowing that she would be there made my decision easier.”
Tsitsikronis also has some family support as she settles in, with her mother and grandmother making the trip to Pennsylvania with her and staying for the first two weeks.
So, how does a 21-year-old softball player from western Sydney find her way to Washington, Pennsylvania? “It all started with (former Australian coach) Kere Johanson,” Tsitsikronis recalls. “He was an assistant coach at the Rebellion last year and he asked me a while back if I’d be interested in playing there. A couple of months later I got an offer and accepted.”
Tsitsikronis has been recruited as a catcher, but the 169cm utility expects to play other positions as well during the demanding schedule. Rebellion coach Craig Montvidas seems almost excited as his latest recruit. “Taylah is a talented young player with an abundance of International experience,” Montvidas said on the team’s website. “She will be a welcome addition to the Rebellion squad. She is a proven hitter and extremely solid defensive player.”
Of course, Montvidas will have to do without his two Australian players when the World Cup in Oklahoma City and the World Championship in Surrey come around in July. For Tsitsikronis, that will be another step in the busiest few months of her life.
She will have plenty of support, as several family members are planning to travel to Canada to cheer on Tsitsikronis and her teammates.
Tsitsikronis knows her exciting schedule won’t be all smooth sailing. Although she has travelled in previous representative teams to places as far flung as South Africa, Italy, New Zealand and Japan, this will be the longest period she has been away from home.
She already knows what she will miss most. “My puppies. I’ll miss my dogs a lot,” she says. “And the food. I’m not sure what will be available over there, but I do like my Vegemite.”
After such a gruelling few months, Tsitsikronis could be forgiven for wanting to come back to Australia and chill out. But she plans to get straight back into studying her course in policing, with a view to one day joining.
And in the longer term, she has the same goal as many other young athletes: the Olympics. If things go the right way at a vote in August, softball will be reinstated as an Olympic sport for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
That sounds like a long way away, but Tsitsikronis is already daring to dream. “Long term I would love to be a part of the team that goes to the Olympics if softball is reinstated,” she says. “It has been a lifelong dream. I have everything crossed that it will be included.”