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 spring board 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!"