A 2009 graduate of Port St. Joe High School, Heather Brinkmeier is headed to Sydney, Australia to compete in the Down Under Cup Challenge as part of the Australia International Softball Challenge in July.
“I had to read it twice,” said Brinkmeier of the invitation she received in September of last year.
Brinkmeier will fly to Los Angeles on July 20 and take a connecting flight to Sydney the following day.
She’ll have two days in Australia to sight-see before jumping into a daily practice regimen with a team made up of complete strangers.
“It’s exciting and nerve-wracking,” she said of playing such a high-profile tournament alongside girls she’s never met. “I’m going to work my butt off.”
She’ll have plenty of time to amp herself to meet her new teammates on the 15-hour flight.
USA Athletes International works to bring the world’s athletes together though sports and education and chose 14 females from across the United States to gather as a team halfway across the globe to compete against players from Australia, Italy and Prague.
The daughter of Steve and Christine, Brinkmeier was recommended to the team by her former coaches as well as those from opposing teams. Candidates also had to be in good academic standing.
In high school, Brinkmeier was a four-year letter winner for Coach Jim Belin and helped the Lady Tiger Sharks to a runner-up finish in the state Class 2A Tournament her senior year when PSJ finished 27-3.
She was third-team All-State as a senior outfielder and had a home run and three RBIs in the regional title game; two hits and an RBI in the state semifinals.
She hit .284 with five doubles and two triples as a junior when she helped lead the Lady Tiger Sharks to a regional championship.
While in high school she also played volleyball and basketball and was a member of the cheerleading squad.
Further, Brinkmeier played travel ball for Team North Florida with Coach Coy Adkins, an assistant coach at University of Florida and now a coach at the University of Arkansas from 2006-08. The team placed 30th out of 165 teams at the 2006 nationals in Seattle. In 2007 the team placed third in the World Series and second in 2008.
She was a member of the Panama City Lady Lightning with Coach Bubba Hill from 2006-10. The team won a USFA World Series in 2006.
In junior college Brinkmeier played two seasons for head Coach Tommy McDaniel at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College in Andalusia, Ala., where she hit over .300 both years with a combined 14 home runs and 55 RBIs.
She transferred to Florida Southern College in Lakeland but had a medical redshirt for the 2011-12 softball seasons due to a labrum tear in her right shoulder.
“It’s doing great,” said Brinkmeier of the injury,
She said she feels back to 100 percent.
In her junior year she played all 49 games at first base and had a fielding percentage of .978 while rehabilitating.
Though Brinkmeier is “beyond excited” for the Australian experience, she’s unsure what competition she may face down under.
“When softball was an Olympic sport, Australia had one of the top teams,” added Brinkmeier.
Brinkmeier hopes that the experience will lead to additional travel opportunities or as a springboard into the coaching world.
“It’s enough for me just to go there and compete,” said Brinkmeier. “Even if we lose, it’s about the experience…but I’m going to win.”
In addition to representing the United States and Port St. Joe at the tournament, she’s also excited to get some relaxation in during the international trip.
“According to the itinerary, they’ll teach us how to surf during the day and we’ll get to tour the zoo,” Brinkmeier said.
On June 22, a fundraiser will be held for Brinkmeier at the Rustic Sands campground from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. CT featuring food, drinks, raffles and live music. Funds raised will go toward her flight to Los Angeles.