Covid has restricted playing opportunities for most but not Sky Sport New Zealand White Sox outfielder Nerissa McDowell. McDowell has looked further afield to gain valuable experience and sharpen her skills in Australia and the USA.


When did softball begin for Nerissa McDowell?
I grew up around the softball diamond. My parents both played my entire childhood at a very high level. My mum, Jaye Bailey, played for the White Sox and went to the Sydney Olympics with them in 2000. My dad, Mike McDowell, also played and coached high level ball, coaching the Canterbury Red Sox for multiple years. 

I started playing just before I started high school and joined a team in the area to meet people before I started. That is what brought our family to the Kaiapoi Softball Club.

Myself and my three younger sisters all play. In recent years we have been lucky enough to play together with the Kaiapoi Premier Womens Team, with dad coaching. 

Two of my younger sisters have also had a lot of success within softball also. Layla caught for the Junior White Sox at the Worlds in Irvine California, and is currently in the White Sox squad with me now. While McKenzie is a pitcher utility for the Junior White Sox now.

What led you to move to Australia? 
I had just finished my bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Human Resource Management at the University of Canterbury and wanted to leave my hometown to pursue new opportunities, it just so happened that my partner Brad lives in Sydney, so it worked out well. 
I moved to Sydney in March 2021. This was before the borders had opened for New Zealand and at the time of leaving, I had no idea when I would be able to get back to NZ again.



Your partner is also an international softballer, please tell us a little about him and his background. 
Brad is a dual citizen of the USA and Australia. He has been playing softball since he was 4 and pitching since he was 11. He travels a lot for softball, This is his third year playing at ISC, he has also played in Canada, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia and in a month or so, the Czech Republic. He has just been given the opportunity to be a Graduate Assistant at the University of Florida, under Tim Walton. Working with the Gators Softball team. He has played for NSW and travelled around Australia competing in various softball tournaments. Brad and I met while he was playing in Christchurch in 2020. 
Brad pitched for the Junior Aussie Steelers at the Junior Worlds in 2019 but as he is a dual citizen, he then transferred to USA softball and now pitches with the USA men’s team. Recently he pitched at the Pan Am Americas qualifier and helped the USA qualify for the World Championships in New Zealand later this year. 
Brad and I were (up until recently) based in Sydney and have been for the last year and a bit. 

Tell us a little about the nature of teams and your journey while playing in Australia. 
When I first arrived in Sydney, I knew two or three people in the softball community. It didn't take long for me to start playing again and within a month or so I had found my first team. Sweet Heat Softball played in the Georges River Winter League coached by Mark Armstrong who had recently returned to Sydney from Coaching college in the USA. A requirement for this league was that you had never played in an Australian national team, or a State Representative team at the open level, which at the time I had not. My team was very good, we were filled with U18 Aussie Players with a few girls now attending college in the US. We won the competition. This then led me to play for the Cumberland Nepean team as the Sweet Heat team was under that association. We competed at the NSW State Champs and finished third. From here I was selected to trial for the NSW Open women's team under Kerrie Porter. I was selected for the final team alongside multiple Australian Olympians including Taylah Titsikronis, Michelle Cox and Stacey McManus. We competed at my first Australian National champs in April this year finishing 2nd in one of the best games of softball I've ever been a part of. 

You are currently living and playing ball in the USA, what was the attraction and what have you been up to?
I am currently visiting the US now watching Brad play with the Ostrander Norsemen Fastpitch team. They play twice a week in two different Minneapolis Men’s Leagues and they have allowed me to play with them as the only female on the team. So far, I have faced three ISC men’s pitchers and two USA men’s pitchers.
I always wanted to play in the US, given it was College ball, the Pro league or in the Athletes Unlimited league. To play professional ball in the US you require a working visa, which I am currently working on. Next year I'm hoping to trial for the Athletes Unlimited series played in Chicago. 
Brad and I will be based in Gainesville, Florida as he will be joining the Florida Gators Softball team as a Grad Assistant in September this year. 

What does the future hold for Nerissa and where do you see yourself residing?
At the moment I am going with the flow and taking the opportunities that come to me. I will be returning to New Zealand this October to play the first half of the New Zealand softball season with the Kaiapoi Premier Women’s Team. I was offered a full scholarship to attend a junior college in Florida which I turned down because of my current Job and my want to come back to New Zealand and play. I’m hoping to return to the US early 2023 and am currently looking for travel ball teams in Florida with my main goal of eventually playing in the US Pro League. 


Back row: Layla, Mike & Nerissa. McKenzie in front.





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