Pitch perfect for Hoxton Park High School teacher

James Todhunter captained the Aussie Steelers to gold at the recently completed Softball World Championship. Glenn Cullen reports.

Image: Champion teacher: Australian softball captain James Todhunter.

It was a world championship 20 years in the making for Hoxton Park High School Learning and Support Teacher James Todhunter, who led the Australian men’s softball team to the sport’s ultimate prize in New Zealand.

Mr Todhunter captained the Aussie Steelers to tournament gold after beating Canada 5-2 in the Auckland final earlier this month.

It was a breakthrough win for Mr Todhunter in his fifth world championship appearance, the second baseman picking up a run in the decider to ice the victory.

“It was a long time away from home and a lot of sacrifices for a lot of people but it was an amazing achievement to get it done,” Mr Todhunter said.

“It was just one of those weeks where things just went our way and it was meant to be.”

Australia had lost to Canada in the pool games but won the match that mattered most, racking up vital victories against Argentina and Japan along the way.

Mr Todhunter has been a mainstay of the sport he first took up when he was barely 10 years old.

It’s taken him around the world and even to the semi-professional leagues of North America, but as a sport without the profile or support of cricket or even baseball it’s been something of a battle.

“It’s a labour of love and a lot of sacrifices have to be made to be able to do it because there isn’t much funding there,” he said.

“We pay a levy to go away and you do spend a lot of time away. There’s the monetary sacrifice but also your family and colleagues too.

“I have had a very supportive head teacher, Angeliena Stojanovska, who has been awesome and obviously my principal Leny Wallace has been unreal in letting me go away but also the Department, which has given me special leave to be able to achieve this.”

Having achieved his ultimate goal, Mr Todhunter will go back to playing for the Wanderers Softball Club ahead of next year’s national championships.

A fulltime teacher now for two years, he is getting used to the balancing act of high-level sport and work life but admits he does get the odd chance to show his students the game that has been such a big part of his life.

“I do take some sports and obviously I’m the first one volunteered when it comes to softball so I do get to sneak it in which is nice,” he said.

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