Meredith's 'overdue' visit home

Peter Meredith back at Ellis Park yesterday during his visit back to Dunedin. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Peter Meredith back at Ellis Park yesterday during his visit back to Dunedin. Photo: Gregor Richardson
After a career in which he became one of the sport’s greatest players, softball still features heavily in Peter Meredith’s life. Jeff Cheshire caught up with the Dunedin-raised former pitcher while he is back for a quick visit.

Ellis Park might seem a long way from the bright lights of the United States division one college sports.

One is a classic grassroots sports ground, the other a multimillion dollar-industry where performance is everything.

But through Peter Meredith, the link is there.

The 58-year-old honed his game in Dunedin, rising through the grades and playing for Brockville, Roslyn Wakari and Dodgers.

That eventually resulted in a long professional career in the US, where he became one of the sport's most feared pitchers.

He also turned out for the New Zealand and US national teams, racking up a large number of accolades in the process.

That came to an end when he retired in 2001 - also the last year he was in Dunedin.

Now entering his sixth season as an associate head coach with the Brigham Young University (BYU) women's softball team in Salt Lake City, Utah, he still lives and breathes softball.

The side plays in a multimillion-dollar facility, has the majority of its games televised and has enormous pressure to perform.

It made for a busy life, but he was glad to have found time for a ''well overdue'' trip home.

He is in Dunedin this week alongside his 14-year-old daughter Olivia, who had not been to New Zealand, and wife Angie.

''It's been magic,'' he said.

''I met up with some mates last night, had a nice feed of whitebait and paua and fish and oysters.

''It was good, it tastes better than it used to, so it's good to be back.''

Meredith's schedule rarely slowed down.

Alongside playing there was recruiting, planning and training to keep him busy outside of the season.

Despite that he enjoyed coaching and the opportunity to carry on in the sport.

''It's all I've known.

''I've done other things in my life, but softball's kind of where I've been trained and ... able to extend that into a coaching career.''

Despite retaining a love for the sport, he felt it would be a tough road ahead for the men's game.

While the women's game had a pathway in college scholarships and professional opportunities, that pathway was largely in baseball for men.

''I don't know if there's a magic pill, I really don't.

''Baseball's got all the ingredients, the lure of an opportunity to make a lot of money, a living, an education.

''Women's softball, the same thing.

''You can progress through the sport and then maybe go on to the professional ranks, or play in Europe.

''Men's softball, not so much.

''The game is dying in the US, it's dwindling in numbers.

''Unfortunately I hate to say it, it could be a game of the dinosaur, for the men's anyway. I hope not, but who knows.''

He said colleges in the US were becoming more globally focused in their recruiting.

It was a pathway becoming more popular for New Zealand girls, particularly at the division two and three levels.

The step up to division one was a big one, although if they could find the right player, he said it would be great to get a Kiwi to BYU.

Indeed, despite having been gone for over 30 years, that Kiwi blood still runs through Meredith's veins.

''I'm still a Kiwi to heart.

''I always miss the food, a good Kiwi roast and all the goodies that go with it and just the beauty of this country.''

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