The Sky Sport New Zealand White Sox (WSX) have finalised their itinerary for the upcoming WBSC Women's Softball World Cup Qualifier in Buttrio, Italy.

The WSX will base and prepare themselves in Forlì, a small city in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy. The region is known for its rich history, art, and culture, as well as its culinary traditions, such as Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Prosciutto di Parma, and balsamic vinegar.

The Forlì Softball Club will host the WSX over 5 days providing them use of their diamond and facilities for training and warm-up games. Forlì too, has a rich history, an impressive softball heritage and one that arguably boasts the most successful championship record in Europe. 

The club has won the Italian Championship 14 times, with the most recent title coming in 2021. They have also won the European Cup Winners Cup six times.

Founded in 1969 Forlì has had a strong connection with New Zealand softball dating back to 1994 when former WSX athlete and Olympian Jaye Bailey played for the club. 

The table below highlights the strong connection between Forlì and New Zealand softball since Bailey’s first appearance with the club.

Bailey looks back on her time in the blue jersey with great affection, noting that the Forlì Softball Club provided a warm and welcoming family environment. She has maintained connections with many members of the team and individuals she met during her time in the region. In fact, during her second year in Forlì, no fewer than seven members of the Vitaliani family were either players or part of the management team.

As the first Kiwi player to join the team, Bailey played an instrumental role in propelling Forlì from the second division into the prestigious A1 Italian Cup league.

Bailey's time with the club paved the way for a generation of Kiwi softballers to join and thrive, playing key roles in Forlì's continued success for the next two decades.

Bailey connected Jarrad Martin who was playing in Florida at that time with club president, Giovanni Bombacci (Bomba). Bomba was involved with the Italian Mens team at that time and picked up Martin to play in the European Cup. 

(Left) Forlì President & Italian Baseball Softball Federation Hall of Fame Member Giovanni Bombacci. (Right) Jason Kumeroa (JK) holding the 2011 Coppa delle Coppe.

WSX great Gina Weber appeared on the scene in 1997 as cover for Bailey who struggled throughout the season with a shoulder injury. Bailey was unsure if she would recover in time for the playoffs and was asked by the president if she knew of a player who could provide cover. “I’m going to ask my mate,” said Bailey. Lucky enough Weber was in-between jobs and joined the team. Through vigorous rehab Bailey was cleared to play in the European Cup in Holland where they were victorious.  Bailey collected the MVP award and Weber dominated on the mound.

Bailey say’s “Having visited the local Faenza cemetery several times and witnessed the unmarked graves of fallen soldiers from our ANZAC community was deeply moving. This experience made me feel a sense of belonging to the town and the community, and I came to deeply respect the people there for their kindness and hospitality, which we would call 'manaaki' in our culture.”

The success of Forlì is largely due to long term president Bombacci. Bombacci say's "Forlì softball and I personally owe a lot to New Zealand softball. Starting from Jaye Bailey who arrived in 1994 as the first foreign player on the team who led the way up to 2013 with the last Kiwi Melanie Gettins to wear the Forlì shirt, eight players, and three New Zealand managers rightfully represent a piece of history of Forlì Softball. Gina Weber will always be remembered for her pivotal role in helping us win our first European title. JK and Char Pouaka, as a couple, created unforgettable memories during their 8-year tenure with us, securing our first Italian Championship and many other trophies in Italy and Europe. We are immensely grateful to all the players who joined us during this remarkable phase in the history of Forlì softball."

Despite the passing of time since a kiwi player has last represented Forlì, the connection remains strong, as evidenced by Forlì's pitcher Ilaria Cacciamani playing for Mt Albert Ramblers this season.

Softball NZ expresses its gratitude to Bomba and the Forlì club for generously hosting the WSX in June, which will serve as a valuable preparation for the upcoming World Cup Qualifier.

Forlì - 2021 European Premiere Cup and Italian Champions


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