Aubrey Peterson doesn’t hesitate to identify herself as American.
Why should she? Peterson is Snohomish County born and bred, having spent her youth roaming the county’s softball fields before going on to star for the Cascade High School fastpitch team. She attends an American college as she just began her senior year at the University of Utah.
Yet there was Peterson, patrolling right field in Chiba, Japan, while wearing a uniform that had the twin red crosses of Great Britain’s Union Jack flag emblazoned on the sleeves.
Peterson has spent the past year-plus representing Great Britain at the international level by playing for the British national women’s softball team, most recently traveling with the team to the Women’s Softball World Championship in Japan earlier this month. And playing for the British national team has provided her a unique avenue for competing at softball’s highest level.
“I’ve always wanted to see how far I can get with playing softball,” Peterson said. “The reason I was super excited about playing for Britain is because the national-team level is literally the best of the best. I’m playing with the best women in the world.”
Peterson was one of 17 players who traveled with the British team to Japan for the world championship, which took place Aug. 2-12. Great Britain finished the tournament with a 3-6 record, placing 11th out of the 16 teams.
Peterson started two games in right field for Great Britain, but unfortunately had her tournament cut short when she was hit in the helmet by a pitch while playing against Botswana, resulting in a concussion. Peterson appeared in four games in the tournament, going 1-for-3 at the plate with a run scored and a stolen base.
“It was really surreal,” Peterson said about her experience at the World Championship, which included being on the same field as Canada’s former Washington Huskies stars Danielle Lawrie, Jenn Salling and Victoria Hayward, who Peterson idolized as a kid. “I was just trying not to act like a total fangirl the whole time.”
But how does Peterson qualify to play for Great Britain?
Peterson’s mother, Selena Blachford, was born in Great Britain and retains British citizenship. Blachford’s family moved to the county in 1977 when Blachford was 11 because her father, an electronic engineer, was recruited to work at the Fluke Corporation. Peterson said she grew up with British traditions, drinking tea and singing “God Save the Queen” with her mom.
But despite her roots Peterson never had thoughts of playing for Great Britain — she’d never even been to the country — until she arrived at Utah. The Utes had an assistant coach, Maggie Livreri, who played professionally in Italy. When Livreri, who is now the head coach at Boise State, found out Peterson had a British mother, she encouraged Peterson to pursue playing for Great Britain.
Peterson jumped at the opportunity. Blachford liked the idea, too.
“I was ecstatic,” Blachford said. “You just don’t realize that could be a possibility.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Blachford added. “For her to be on the forefront of creating a sport that is one of the fastest growing in the world right now, and being a pioneer in British softball, is incredible.”
Indeed, one reason why the British Softball Federation was so eager to bring Peterson on board is because the sport is relatively new there. Because of that the majority of the team is comprised of players like Peterson, who are from the U.S. or Canada but have British heritage. Only a handful of the national team’s players grew up in Great Britain.
Peterson’s first experience with the team came last summer when she played at the Women’s European Championship in Bollate, Italy. The top three teams qualified for the World Championship, and Great Britain earned the third spot when it defeated the Czech Republic 4-1 in a nine-inning, winner-takes-all thriller in the third-place game.
Peterson played her role in the triumph, singling and scoring a run during the decisive ninth-inning rally. She appeared in 10 of Great Britain’s 12 games in the tournament, batting 7-for-23 (.304) with six runs.
“It was a really new team and a lot of us had no idea how important it was to play as well as we did and do as well as we did,” Peterson said. “We had no clue what we were really getting into, or that we would end up being in Japan a year later playing against teams like the U.S.”
Peterson, who at 21 is one of the youngest players in the program, remains fully committed to the British softball cause. She’ll play for Great Britain again at the Super 6 tournament on Sept. 19-23 in Hoofddorp, Netherlands. The ultimate goal for Great Britain is to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. To earn a spot Great Britain will have to surpass either Italy or the Netherlands and become a top-two team in Europe.
And even though Peterson is American, she’s going to do everything within her power to help make it happen.
If you have an idea for a community sports story, email Nick Patterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story has been modified to correct details about Great Britain’s softball history.