Life as she knows it is about to change for West Pennant Hills softballer Rachel Lack.
The 22-year-old will join seven of her Aussie Spirit teammates to head to the US in June to join the Chicago Bandits in the National Pro Fastpitch league.
“It's an awesome and rare opportunity to be going over there,” Lack said.
Softball Australia high performance manager Andrew Utting said the deal with the Bandits will improve Australia’s chances of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for these eight players to be full time professional athletes who can concentrate 100 per cent on softball,” Utting said.
“They’ll be exposed to a level of competition that will be a tremendous benefit to them as individuals and to the team as we look towards the 2018 World Championships and qualifying for Tokyo 2020.”
The Bandits, who have won the National Pro championship in the past two years, play at a purpose-built stadium in Rosemont, Illinois, one of the premier softball facilities in the USA.
“The experience of training and competing at that level against top-quality opposition is an environment we can’t create in Australia,” Utting said.
“It will help us bridge the gap on the US and other countries whose players benefit from playing professionally.”
Lack is hoping she will personally achieve some goals during the stint in the US.
“I would definitely like to work on the hitting side of my game,” she said.
“In general, being more aggressive in certain [pitch] counts and times during the game.”
Lack will be joined by Queenslanders Janice Blackman and Chelsea Forkin and fellow NSW teammates Stacey McManus, Kaia Parnaby, Samantha Poole, Ellen Roberts and Taylah Tsitsikronis in Chicago.
Chicago Bandits general manager Toni Calmeyn said this opportunity is great for the Bandits.
“No team [in the league] has done anything to this magnitude before with international players and we are excited to have Australian players in Rosemont and as part of the Bandits team,” she said.
The players will receive a scholarship payment from Softball Australia, plus a per diem living and meals allowance.
If the concept is successful, it is hoped that Australia’s relationship with the Bandits will continue.
“Hopefully both Australia and the Bandits can learn from each other and develop,” Lack said.
“Development is the key word for this whole deal.”
The league plays from June to August and features five teams of the very best talent including all active US former Olympians, NCAA National Champions and Women’s College World Series’ MVPs.
The first pitch of the season will be thrown on June 1 when the Akron Racers and Chicago Bandits match-up for a three-game series.