Love and Fastpitch Bring Kiwi Pitcher to Minnesota

Written by Bob on May 21st, 2014

080813-Jamieson.Michael62lr New Zealand native Michael Jamieson pitching in the 2013 NAFA World Series for the (Wisconsin) Bar On The Avenue Appleton Buzz. He will soon be bringing his pitching talent to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo By BOB OTTO

PARAPARAUMU, NEW ZEALAND – On June 2nd a plane from New Zealand will land at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport carrying fastpitch softball pitcher Michael Jamieson. He’s coming to Minnesota for two reasons: love and fastpitch softball.

Now that surely has his girlfriend Natalie Bertucci excited and thrilled. But learning of a Kiwi pitcher moving to Minnesota most likely has fastpitch managers a bit thrilled, too.

And asking: “I wonder if Michael needs a team to pitch for?”

That’s still up in the air. But pitchers with talent are hot commodities in a sport so desperately lacking. Especially a Kiwi only 24 years old, but who has been playing fastpitch since he was eight.

Jamieson is by no means a stranger to the U.S. He’s been playing stateside for five years, splitting seasons between both countries.

    NOT LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

His fastpitch adventures came about not so much because of an instant affection for the sport, but through the inspiration of a brother, and the insistence of a coach.

“Initially I did not have any interest in playing,” said Jamieson, who starred in Rugby and wrestling in high school. “But my oldest brother Clint Keil played and I would warm up on the field with him. His coach at the time, Grant Wilson, told me, ‘I need a player next week for my 10-Under team and you’re my guy.’ And I never stopped playing.”

But as a pitcher? No, that came later. First he was pegged as an infielder. However, he got his big break and a promotion several years later.

“When I was 15 our pitcher didn’t show, so I just jumped out there and threw some strikes,” he said.

Success soon followed. He played for a New Zealand 17-Under national championship team, took second in the 19-under national championship, and his club team finished as high as fifth in the New Zealand Club National Championships.

    A NEW BRAND OF FASTPITCH

But he got the itch – the fastpitch traveling itch. Jamieson wanted to play in either Canada or the United States. So he sent out an inquiry. And he got an invite.

“Joe Clarke from Warsaw (Illinois) replied to my message,” Jamieson said. “From then on I was set on going to Warsaw to find out what American ball was about!”

He soon learned of some big differences.

“In New Zealand we play one game on Saturday and one mid-week with two practices,” he said. “Teams have more than one pitcher, so it’s not the same (pitcher) going every game.”

But in the states? Much more time in the circle.

“A season in New Zealand has maybe 20 to 30 games over six months to possibly 60-70 games in three months in America,” he said. “You have to be prepared to pitch every game.”

    ALWAYS RAISING THE BAR

In his five years pitching in the U.S., Jamieson has achieved his share of success. With the Warsaw Stag Boys and later the (Wisconsin) Bar On The Avenue Appleton Buzz (sponsored by Mark Miller and managed by Tony Schaaf), he was selected to the ASA Illinois all-state team and All-World at the NAFA World Series.

But he keeps pushing his goals ever higher, striving to improve each year.

“My biggest goal is to make it to an ISF (International Softball Federation) World Championship, whether it be with Great Britain, the USA, or New Zealand,” he said. “I think that’s every person’s dream who plays softball.”

One area he’s improved on his off-speed pitch, not the easiest pitch to master, but a valuable tool in the pitching trade.

“I’m not a flame thrower, so I rely on the change up a lot now,” he says. “But when I was younger, I did not think it was that important. Now I realize mixing speeds is necessary against good hitters.”

    NEW ZEALAND AND CANADA’S BEST

Jamieson has watched and studied veteran pitchers. Native New Zealander, Michael White, an ISC Hall of Fame member, is one for sure.

But he also admires one of Canada’s best.

“The best pitcher I have ever seen or faced is Dean Holoien,” he said. “He brings it and gives it his all, and it’s just a great challenge to face him. I think Adam Folkard (Australian pitcher) is the best in the world, but Deano was one of my favorites to watch pitch.”

As far as hitters, he names Ben Enoka, Sam Bishop, Jerome Raemaki, Donny Hale, and Thomas Makea as some of New Zealand’s best.

And one other – Wayne Laula.

“It’s always a good test for yourself against any of those hitters,” he said. “But Wayne Laula recently hit one about 500 feet off me at nationals. He is so strong and swings so hard, and has such good hands for the big tank he is.”

But now Jamieson turns his focus away from his homeland to his new home in Minnesota, his new life, and his new fastpitch environment.

    TWO LOVES, ONE DESTINATION

Of course there’s Natalie. And she is the reason he’s coming to Minnesota in the first place. But there’s also his second love – fastpitch. And he’s eager to get started.

“I am looking forward to jumping straight back into softball and trying out for the St. Paul Men’s League,” he said. “(And) I am hoping to help start another team in Minneapolis in the future.”

Fastpitch has been good to Jamieson. It’s taken him to unforeseen heights, playing on two continents that he couldn’t have imagined as an eight-year-old when he first picked up a softball. Of course there’s the championships. The thrill of victory. The personal and team honors.

    FASTPITCH, MORE THAN A GAME

But the close-knit fastpitch community has given Jamieson far more than he ever expected.

“If someone were to ask me why they should play fastpitch softball,” he said, “I would tell them that you won’t find better people anywhere else in the world than in the sport of softball. The generosity of sponsors and teammates is unlike anything else. Opponents turn into life long friends.”

(Michael Jamieson also teaches fastpitch softball pitching. And he will continue teaching the sport in Minnesota. Contact him on Facebook at Hui Fastpitch Softball Pitching Academy and on Twitter@Throwthehui.

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