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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (January 7, 2020) – Softball Australia and Peppers Pro made it official today that the Aussie Peppers will return to Mankato as their home base for the National Pro Fastpitch competition of 2020.
The Aussie Peppers made up mostly of the squad for the Australian Olympic Team, known as the Travelodge Aussie Spirit, plan to use the high level of NPF competition as a springboard into the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Aussie Peppers of Minnesota is a partnership between Softball Australia and the youth nonprofit softball organization known as the Mankato Peppers, with the latter acting as home host throughout 2019. Other key partners in Mankato include Bethany Lutheran College, acting as the housing and training partner for the team, and the distinguished Mayo Clinic Health System, as the sports medicine partner.
“Our inaugural season with the Peppers in 2019 was crucial for our High-Performance program which enabled us to go through the WBSC Asia/Oceania Olympic qualification event undefeated. We are delighted to continue this relationship in 2020 to use it as a springboard for our Olympic campaign,” said David Pryles, Chief Executive Officer of Softball Australia.
“Mankato was a home away from home for our Travelodge Aussie Spirit squad and we look forward to another season against some of the best softballers in the world.”
“The partnership we forged with Softball Australia made an incredible impact on our community and helped grow the youth program. Membership in the Peppers youth fall fastpitch program was up 50% year-over-year following the NPF season. Our new Aussie mates were embraced by our community and fan attendance was well above our expectations. We’ll look to try and bring back our American players and look to acquire more players in the 2020 NPF College Draft.” Said Matt Mangulis, General Manager of the Aussie Peppers of Minnesota. “We sit in a great position for the 2020 season and will continue to focus on playing/training and growing the sport. Just as we set out to do from the start.”
The Mankato Peppers brought the Aussie Peppers to North Mankato in 2019, a season in which the team finished in fifth place with a record of 12-31. The battle through a very tough NPF regular season seemed to be the perfect preparation for a tough Asia Oceania Olympic Qualifier that took place last September. It was in that Qualifier, where the Travelodge Aussie Spirit emerged victorious in punching the last of six tickets to the Olympic Games of Tokyo.
“We simply don’t have access to the level of competition in the NPF Down Under so our partnership with the Peppers was absolutely crucial to our Olympic Qualifier campaign,” said Travelodge Aussie Spirit Head Coach Laing Harrow, who also holds the Head Coach role with the Peppers.
“The NPF will again provide us valuable game-time at the elite level as we prepare for our return to the Olympic Games. Of course, we’ll be up against the United States in Tokyo but hopefully, there’s a small pocket of Peppers supporters cheering us on as well!”
The Aussie Peppers are preparing to host multi-team series events as part of the new structure of the league for 2020. The team plans to announce particulars of the schedule in the coming weeks.
Founded by Jerry Maschka in 1982, the Mankato Peppers are celebrating 38 years as a youth softball organization. The Mankato Peppers membership is comprised of 580+ local girls from ages 5 to 18. Over the 38 year history, the Peppers have had many former players go on to play at the collegiate level, and two go on to play professionally in the NPF – Coley Ries, approaching her fourth pro season; and Ann Steffan, selected 19th in the 2005 NPF Draft and named All NPF in 2006 with the Chicago Bandits.
The Mankato Peppers continue to partner with other Southern Minnesota youth softball organizations such as Cardinal Power (Fairmont, MN) The James Gang (St. James, MN) the Southern Star League (Southern MN) and look to add more to the partnership in 2020. Together the organizations engaged by the Aussie Peppers total approximately 1600 youth member/players, all who will be able to call the Aussie Peppers of Minnesota their team.
Softball Australia is a team that has had broad success throughout its history, particularly in the Olympic Games, perched on the medal stand for every single Olympics of which softball has been included (1996-2008).
The NPF will lead off its 17th season in April. The complete 2020 regular-season schedule will be released in the coming weeks. Tickets for the Aussie Peppers will go on sale in the coming weeks and can be purchased at pepperspro.com.
About National Pro Fastpitch (NPF)
National Pro Fastpitch (NPF), an Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball since 2004, provides elite female athletes with an opportunity to pursue a professional career in fastpitch softball beyond their collegiate and amateur success. The NPF affiliate teams consist of the Aussie Peppers of Minnesota, Beijing Shougang Eagles, Canadian Wild of Southern Illinois, Chicago Bandits, Cleveland Comets, and California Commotion. National Pro Fastpitch players hail from the United States, Australia, Canada, China, and Mexico, and represent the most accomplished and talented athletes in the sport of women’s softball.