Professional softball is coming to North Mankato this year with the Aussie Peppers taking up residence at Caswell Park.
The Aussie Peppers is a team of Australian players who compete in National Pro Fastpitch. The roster is mainly players who compete for the Australian national team.
The NPF is a five-team league and this will be the second year the Aussie team will compete in it. The team spent last season competing as the Aussie Spirit but changed its name to align with the Mankato Peppers softball organization.
"We hosted that series last summer, and despite some poor weather, the NPF commissioner was really impressed," Matt Mangulis, a vice-president in the Peppers' organization who will serve as the Aussie Peppers' general manager while the team is in town told the Mankato Free Press. "We thought it would be fun (to host an international team) and great for the community.
"We're the hosts; they operate the team. We got to name the team and build a brand, and we'll see how it goes. Hopefully, it goes well, and they want to come back next year."
Caswell Park hosted the Chicago Bandits, another NPF franchise, for a week last June. The Bandits played the Beijing Shougang Eagles at that time. Former Mankato East High School star Coley Ries plays with the Bandits.
National teams are looking for places to compete while they train for the 2020 Olympics.
According to the NPF website, 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, Beijing Shougang Eagles, Canadian Wild of Southern Illinois, Chicago Bandits, Cleveland Comets, and USSSA Florida Pride.
NPF players come from the United States, Australia, Canada and China.
According to the team’s mission: the Aussie Peppers of Minnesota seeks to bring change to the professional sports world as a public benefit corporation that advances society and advocates diversity and equality for the under-served female athlete in professional sports. Aussie Peppers of Minnesota will be a model for advancing and empowering women and inspiring girls to achieve their aspirations with the professional sport of women’s fastpitch softball locally, nationally, and globally.
The 2019 schedule will be released soon but the season typically begins in May and concludes in August. The team will play a 46-game schedule with 18 games at Caswell Park. Five of those 18 games will be doubleheaders. Find out more about the Aussie Peppers at the team website.