Nelson Softball was formed in 1962 and in October 2022 it celebrated 60 years of softball.
At this celebration Nelson Softball Association had the privilage of hearing a range of stories through the decades delivered from past members. Sports writer Tony Smith also gifted the narrative of Nelson Softball Association to it's members capturing the rich softball history of it's people and events over the years. A short extract from Tony Smith's narrative is below;
The softball craze sweeping New Zealand took a long time to arrive in Nelson, but one of Aotearoa’s newer softball regions has certainly made up for it since.
The game had been played in New Zealand since 1936, but it would be another quarter-of-a-century it caught fire in Nelson.
Ben Marshall became the “father of Nelson softball’’. He arrived, with wife Eva, in Nelson in 1961 from Levin.
Ben’s career had started in his Horowhenua hometown when he joined the Ajax club in the 1941-42 season. He left six years later to form the Wanderers club, comprised largely of rugby players.
Ben captained and coached Wanderers for 12 years and was a Horowhenua representative for 17 seasons, 12 as captain.
He was so dedicated to softball that he even arranged for an early 11am game on the day of his marriage to Eva in Levin in 1950.
Ben was knocked out during the game, but still made the church on time. “It was the only time he was injured,’’ Eva told the Nelson Evening Mail in 1982.”
When the Marshalls arrived in Nelson, cricket ruled the summer sporting roost. Nelson held cricket’s Hawke Cup – symbol of minor association supremacy – from 1958 to 1965, resisting 28 challenges.
The Marshalls owned a shop and were told by a neighbour that “it would be impossible to get softball going in Nelson,’’ Ben told The Mail in 1982.
“That spurred me on. From then on, I treated it as a business and the highlight was starting the Nelson Softball Association.’’