Islander makes quick impression with New Zealand softball team

Jason Malloy
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Tori Campbell-Jones spent the Canadian winter in New Zealand playing softball.

Traci Jones-Campbell won a national crown with Canterbury team

Talk about making a first impression.

After flying 21 hours to New Zealand, Tori Campbell-Jones dropped off her luggage and went to the ball field to watch her new team play. When the coach asked if she would go in, the Cornwall resident obliged.

As she stepped into the batter’s box, teams not playing at the time came to fence to catch a glimpse of the new Canadian import.

Campbell-Jones was exhausted and nervous.

She watched the first pitch for a ball before driving the second pitch back up the middle for a single.

“Thank God,” she said Friday. “That means everything, that first impression. I ended up playing the rest of the day.”

The 18-year-old pitcher/

infielder returned earlier this month from New Zealand, where softball is like hockey is in Canada.

She played more than 200 games with four different teams and won a national under-19 title with Canterbury. She was named top hitter in the tournament and made the all-star team with a .630 average, .655 on-base percentage and led the championship with four home runs.

Campbell-Jones has been playing the game since she was about five years old. She loved the sport and was looking at school in the United States a year ago, but nothing worked out.

When an email arrived from New Zealand, the family initially thought it was a scam, but because it came through Softball Canada they decided to check it out.

The New Zealand team had sent information to see if there were players in North America interested in joining them this season.

Campbell-Jones was one of four players — the only Canadian — the team narrowed its selection to. After reviewing videos and references, they chose the Island girl and before long she was heading to Christchurch, New Zealand, at the end of September.

“This is something that I wanted to do and it just happened to work out,” Campbell-Jones said. “It was actually amazing.”

She didn’t just play, she excelled.

“I didn’t expect it, but I worked for it,” she said.

The game is different in New Zealand. While the North American game is more about small ball with bunting and slap hitting, the New Zealand game has more offence.

“They have some big girls and they hit hard,” Campbell-Jones said. “It’s a lot of long ball.”

Pitchers in New Zealand are allowed to crow hop, while in Canada the hurler must drag their back foot.

“That was probably the hardest part about being there,” Campbell-Jones said.

The change resulted in some of her pitches breaking at different times than they do in Canada. That sometimes results in strikes being balls and vice-versa.

“It took a while, but eventually I caught on.”

She credits her coaches, including her stepfather Lance Jones and brother Dustan Jones, for helping her improve over the years.

Campbell-Jones is unsure what the future holds. She has talked to some universities in the United States and has been invited back to play in New Zealand.

 

 

*****

Tori Campbell-Jones

u Hometown – Cornwall.

u Age – 18.

u Sport – Softball.

u What’s up? - Returned earlier this month from a six-month stay in New Zealand playing softball.

u 2013 team – West Royalty juniors and the Source for Sports Island Bandits that hosted the under-18 national championship.

 

Statistics

Following are some of the

statistics Tori Campbell-Jones

accumulated while playing in

New Zealand during the past year:

Papanui Tigers premier women’s team

92 plate appearances

76 at-bats

.516 on-base percentage

.303 average (batting leadoff)

.900 fielding average

Nationals with the Papanui

premier women’s team

26 plate appearances

20 at-bats

.500 on-base percentage

.300 batting average

.758 fielding average

Under-19 nationals

31 plate appearances

4 home runs (led tournament)

.655 on-base percentage

.630 batting average

Organizations: North American

Geographic location: New Zealand, Canterbury, Cornwall United States Canada North America Iceland Christchurch

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