By Carter Cromwell
April 5th, 2022
When Logan Moreland went to New Zealand in late 2019 to play softball, it was to be for just one season – get in, get out, go home. Pretty simple.
Then Covid-19 happened, and things weren’t so clear-cut. Suddenly, the short-term thing became long term . . . and may well become even longer.
“Yes, it’s interesting how things sometimes turn out,” Moreland said with great understatement.
Moreland, an American, had played three seasons in Italy when the opportunity arose to travel south and play in the New Zealand summer – a not-unusual arrangement for overseas players.
After her 2019 Italian season, she had contacted other European clubs to see if any needed help during the playoffs, and she landed with Roef in The Netherlands for the tail-end of its regular season.
“Then I heard from New Zealand,” Moreland said. “They were bringing a team to play in the European Cup and asked me to play. So I did that, went back to Holland for their playoffs, and then went to New Zealand in October of 2019. My plan had been to play a season there and then go straight back to Europe, but then Covid came along. The lockdown happened in March 2020, and I’ve been here since.”
Her team was able to play most of its 2019-2020 season, though the club nationals were canceled. The 2020-2021 season came off pretty normally, but the current season was disrupted when the number of Covid cases began increasing substantially. March 2022 was a “rough go”, as the National Fast-Pitch Championship tournament – in which the best players from each region compete – was canceled.
“We got lucky and sneaked last season in,” she said, “but, with the number of cases now, it didn’t make sense to have a season. If we flew somewhere from Auckland and then one or more of us got sick and had to quarantine for 10 days, it would be really tough logistically.”
Now it appears that Moreland, who plays shortstop for the Othuhu club in Auckland, may be there for the long haul. She recently signed up to play again for the Roef club this spring and summer, but her plan is to apply for New Zealand residency once she’s eligible late this year.
“That’s my plan now,” she said. “Under normal circumstances, I would have gone to Europe or even back home, but I’m settled in a bit now. I had a couple of inquiries about going back to Europe and playing this summer, but I’d rather get my residency sorted out first. I’ve made some friends and built myself somewhat of a life here.”
And it’s a life beyond softball. Moreland first found work in a supermarket owned by her club’s coach and has worked for the past year in a café where she is a cook.
“It’s been an interesting experience for Logan – getting stuck in New Zealand because of Covid,” said Sarah Edwards, an American who now plays in Italy. The two were opponents in the Italian league in 2018 and 2019 and also in Holland for a brief time. “Although she didn’t always have softball to rely on there, she still fell in love with the place and created a name for herself. There have been quite a few players who’ve stayed overseas and built lives for themselves, but she did it because of Covid.”
Of course, Moreland’s overseas journey is just part of her story.
A native of Woodland, Calif., near the state capitol of Sacramento, she starred in high school, batting .359 with 21 runs scored and seven stolen bases as a senior, and was also a summer league standout. Her performance attracted interest from collegiate coaches and eventually earned her a scholarship to North Dakota State University (NDSU) in Fargo, ND.
Photo credit: Cory Erickson
Jamie Trachsel, now the head coach at the University of Mississippi but then at NDSU, noticed Moreland at a tournament during the summer before her junior season. Rules at the time prevented the two from talking, but NDSU followed Moreland’s progress. Hawaii-Hilo and Mississippi Southern also showed interest, and she eventually made official visits to both before deciding on North Dakota State.
It might seem a stretch for someone who grew up near Sacramento to trade that for college in the upper midwest region of the United States. It’s a significant culture and climate shift, but Moreland says the adjustment wasn’t as difficult as one might imagine.
“The winters in North Dakota are very cold, of course, but I was used to the snow since I grew up not too far from Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and I was used to snow because I snowboarded a lot in the winters,” she said. “Also, there were three other players from California in my class, and there were six altogether on the team, so we had kind of family, and that helped.
“I will say, though, that the wind chill in North Dakota was not what I was expecting. When they say you shouldn’t go outside for more than a couple of minutes, they’re not kidding – you can’t quite grasp that until you try it.”
Still, Moreland took hold of things quickly and quite well from the softball standpoint. In four seasons, she started all 201 games in which she played and averaged .373 with 28 home runs and 132 RBI. She also stole 73 bases while hitting 22 doubles and six triples. She made the Summit Conference all-tournament team three times, was twice an all-league selection, and was voted the league’s player-of-the-year following her senior year. In addition, she was named a Summit League Distinguished Scholar and an NFCA All-America Scholar Athlete in 2016.
After completing her eligibility, she started graduate school but then got the chance to play in Italy and decided to go there in 2017.
“In the U.S., a softball player is pretty much done after college,” she said. “There aren’t too many opportunities right now.”
Moreland quickly made the most of her opportunity in Italy, however, batting .422 with four doubles, three home runs and 10 RBI in 16 starts for Labadini Collecchio. Her batting average was the fourth-highest in the league of those who played enough games to qualify for the batting title. In addition, she posted a .536 on-base percentage, stole 11 bases in 13 attempts, and had a .711 slugging percentage.
Photo credit: Roef Dames Softball
About the only thing she had difficulty adjusting to was the absence of ranch dressing for salads and pizza.
“There was no ranch dressing anywhere,” she said with a laugh. “It’s one of my favorite condiments, and I never realized how much I took it for granted.”
After that, she returned to North Dakota and did another semester of school before going back to Italy for a second season in which she led her team in most offensive categories, including a .398 batting mark, .509 on-base percentage and .656 slugging percentage for an other-worldly 1.165 OPS.
That year Edwards was in her first season as an import player, and she noticed Moreland immediately.
“I was looking for other Americans, and Logan really stood out,” Edwards said. “She’s very tall with wild blond hair and plays with kind of a swagger. Pitchers fear her; she looks mean and nasty whenever she steps up to the plate. She’s very strong because she does a lot of [weight] lifting and looks like she can do damage at any time.
“She radiates an energy on the field that’s very noticeable. She’s the type of player people notice.”
That was true in high school, in college, and in Italy. And no less so in New Zealand, where Moreland has again excelled. In her first season, she was Top Batter in her league and had a .695 on-base percentage.
In the National Fast-Pitch Championships, she led her team to the title in 2020 and the runner-up spot in 2021. She was named to the all-series team both years and was voted the Most Valuable Player and the Top Batter in the 2021 NFP Championships after averaging .640 with a .758 on-base percentage. She also led in stolen bases.
And what are her options going forward? A stay in New Zealand seems to be in the cards, at least for the near-term – “I’d played there before she did, and I told her she’d really like it,” Edwards said “There is an easy-going vibe there.”
In the short-term, she would simply like to see her parents and brother. Because of Covid-related restrictions, she hasn’t been able to visit with them since meeting her parents during a layover at the San Francisco airport in 2019.
“They keep asking me when they can come over,” Moreland said. “I hope soon.”
Longer term, another sojourn in Europe is a possibility – “maybe after I get the residency thing here taken care of. I’m 27 and have a few years of playing left in me, and I’d like to play at least one more season in Europe.
“I have some aspirations to coach, too. I’ve done some of that in Auckland – a lot of clinics, which were really cool – and I’d probably still be doing that if it hadn’t been for the Covid lockdown.
“I certainly did not envision being here as long as I’ve been, but I’ve developed relationships with a lot of people and have gotten used to it. It’s a great place to be.”