From the softball diamond, Mark Anderton has seen the world.
He now brings the international game home.
Anderton is a former New Zealand National Team player and Kiwi batting champion who once toured with Eddie Feigner’s global-trotting “King and His Court” four-man team. He has played the game for more than 25 years, coached it for more than 35 years.
He sees the game differently, and provides that perspective and knowledge to his prodigies today as a coach and trainer of area talent. His international ties continue to lure elite competition here.
Anderton and Washington Acers Fastpitch, a premier softball organization for players ages 9-19 based in the Auburn and Kent area, welcomed the touring Chinese Taipei Olympic women’s team last week, hosting a pair of games at the Service Club Community Park & Ballfields in Kent. The Taiwanese, ranked No. 6 in the world, swept Anderton’s regional select team of past and present collegiate players and former Acers. Chinese Taipei took the opener 8-0 Tuesday, July 16 behind a sixth-inning grand slam, and prevailed 6-1 in the second game Thursday, July 18.
Brooke Nelson, a Bonney Lake High School graduate and the state’s 2018 Gatorade Player of the Year, homered for the select team. She also struck out several batters in relief. Nelson is off to play for the University of Washington next season.
“The girls did just fine,” Anderton said of the two games.
Despite a doubleheader rainout Wednesday, July 17, the Taiwanese practiced and shared time with the Acers at their indoor practice facility in Auburn.
It was a rewarding week of fun and games.
“It is about giving the kids an opportunity to play an international team, something they will never be able to get a chance to do,” Anderton said. “This wasn’t about the program, but about the opportunity to play. And what a great thing for them. … In the back yard, you get an Olympic team coming here because they love coming here.”
Anderton has sent teams overseas, including a group of 18-year-old players who visited Taiwan for a 10-day trip in 2009. He has maintained a relationship with the Taiwan national team coaches the past 12 years.
Chinese Taipei is using the tour to prepare for the Asia/Oceania Qualifier Sept. 24-29 in Shanghai, under the host Chinese Softball Association. The Olympic qualifier will feature eight teams — six from the Asian Games and two from Oceania — and award the final place to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games.
The Taiwanese have more than held their own stateside.
Before arriving here, they lost 1-0 to the U.S. Women’s National Team at Columbus, Ga., on July 4.
The Acer alumni enjoyed the challenge of playing the older, more seasoned team, featuring a mostly left-side-hitting lineup from a roster ranging in age from 19 to 34 years.
“It’s different, very different,” said shortstop Destiny Conerly, a former Acer and Puyallup High School standout who will play at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey next year. “They’re a lot more communicative than us. They talk more than us. They are smoother. They play 24/7. We’re a couple of hours a week (practicing, playing), and they’re like six hours a day.”
Carley Nance, a Tahoma High graduate, another former Acer and a standout pitcher at Seattle University where she will be a redshirt junior next season, came away impressed.
“It’s awesome to see the same game played by a different culture, just on how it’s different,” she said. “It’s still the same game and it’s still fun … they seem to appreciate the game more.
“They’re great,” Nance added. “You can tell they practice every little thing that they do . … Everything they do is so united, which is cool and inspiring.”