Mackay softballer catches a dream
Softball: The journey from Mackay to Canada is a long one, but for one young softballer, it's a path he's been tracking since he could hold a bat.
A family affair, simply playing the sport is in the blood for Riley James, but ask anyone associated with softball in the Mackay region and they'll tell you the boy from Habana had much bigger dreams beyond the local diamond.
"I hear all the stories from the older players telling me that when I was young, they'd always hear me saying I want to play for Australia,” James said.
"And I'm doing it.”
With his dream a reality, the catcher will don the green and gold for Australia's Under-19 Men's softball team at the Junior Men's World Championships in Saskatchewan, Canada in July after a twist of fate saw him take the field for Queensland in the under-19 titles.
Undoubtedly talented enough to be part of Queensland's under-19 side for the Championships in Blacktown in January, James was only selected to play for the state's under-17 side before a phone call set him on his path to Canada.
"I didn't get picked in the under-19 squad originally, but I got a call a couple of months out. I was just focussed on the 17s, so it was a big surprise to get picked and I was happy to get a call up,” James said.
Taking the opportunity with both hands, James played a starring role for Queensland in their gold medal winning run, which saw the 16-year-old selected in Australia's squad.
"It's my first Australian selection at any level, so when I got the call it was amazing... it's a pretty unreal feeling to be picked,” James said.
"It's definitely a dream. You (train and play) for all those hours to make these teams, but it's still a bit of a surprise being as young as I am.”
Also a keen cricketer, James has had first grade experience already with Pioneer Valley Cricket Club which he said helps with his hand/eye coordination, as does practising with a makeshift net set up on the family property.
With the tournament running for three weeks, James is one of three catchers selected for Australia's Junior Steelers. Not simply content with selection, he plans on making an impact.
"I want to catch as well as I can. The other catchers (are older) and will probably be ahead of me, but hopefully I can play as well as I can and get plenty of game time,” he said.
James will link up with the national side at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra in April in preparation for Canada.