Like many thousands of other softball fans around the world, Georgia Blair has been glued to the TV coverage of the US college playoffs.
But unlike most of the others, Blair has a chance to soon be the watched, rather than the watcher.
Blair, 19, has just been named in the Australian team to compete at the Japan Cup in August-September. That may sound like a big deal in itself, but it is only a part of what is shaping as an exciting and extremely busy year for the young Queenslander.
Her first overseas adventure will be the World Cup in Oklahoma City, closely followed by the Women’s World Softball Championship in Canada. Another trans-Pacific flight follows, as she heads to Tokyo for the Japan Cup.
US visa rules being what they are, Blair can’t go straight from Japan to San Jose. Instead, she’ll head back to Australia, where she will catch up with friends and family for only 10 days before flying back to California to start her new life as a college student-athlete.
The college moves signals the end – at least temporarily – of Blair’s career in another of her sporting loves. A talented baseball pitcher, she was a member of the Australian national squad, but eventually had to make the choice between her two favourite sports.
“It was an easy choice, really,” she says. “Once I knew about the college offer I really didn’t have to give it much thought. After four years at college I might be able to get back into baseball, but for now I’m concentrating on softball.”
San Jose Spartans head coach Peter Turner is thrilled that Blair chose a softball career. “Georgia will have the best arm on the team the minute she steps on the field,” Turner told the college website.
“She is a middle infielder who can play multiple positions. She is a good hitter with good pop in her bat. Her arm is phenomenal and she has a very solid glove. She is an extremely talented athlete and we are very happy she has chosen to come to San José State.”
With her Japan Cup, World Cup and World Championship commitments, Blair will miss a week or two of pre-season training and some classes. But she plans to work hard to catch up as she embarks on a business-journalism double degree.
Blair’s journey to San Jose began when she first picked up a baseball for her Queensland club Logan city when she was 8 or 9. An alert softball coach noticed her talent, and soon she was playing both sports.
Fast forward to 2013 and Blair found herself on a junior tour that included training at San Jose State. “That’s where I first met the coaches,” she says. “We stayed in touch, and the coach watched me at the junior worlds in Oklahoma City.”
Obviously coach Turner was impressed. Blair will probably play shortstop or third base for the Spartans, and she’s not fussy. “I prefer shortstop, but wherever he needs me to play I’m more than willing.”
Having watched more than her fair share of college softball on TV, Blair is confident she can compete with the best. “I hope that having played A grade here (with the Wildcats in the Redland Softball Association) and with international experience, I can match it at that level,” she says.
Not many teenagers like to think four years ahead, but Blair is an exception, with her long-term vision already focusing on what might happen after she finishes college. If softball is reinstated as an Olympic sport, the timing could not be better.
“I should graduate just before the 2020 Olympics. By then I’ll have had four years playing at a high level day in, day out. The Olympics are the pinnacle. It would be very exciting to be part of it. I plan to stay fit and healthy and give myself every chance of being there.”