Baseball boys step up
New Zealand baseball is about to make history and three Central City players will be right in the thick of it.
The under-15 national team will be the first ever representative side from New Zealand at an International Baseball Federation world championship.
Ayrton Laird, Cameron Sutton and Jasiah Shepherd-Niu of Central City Baseball will be heading to Mexico in the national side.
‘‘I can’t wait for the experience over there, the toughness of the competition and the challenges we will have to face,’’ third baseman Jasiah says.
‘‘I’m looking forward to meeting all the different people that play the sport and seeing how good they are compared to us,’’ second baseman Ayrton says.
The boys fly out to Mazatlan, Mexico, tomorrow but stop in Phoenix, Arizona, along the way for a training camp with the Seattle Mariners.
‘‘The world champs is huge for Baseball New Zealand and, in particular, youth baseball,’’ under-15 head coach and Diamondblacks pitcher Jamie Wilson says.
‘‘Having represented New Zealand I understand how truly special this event will be for the kids and the coaching staff.’’
The tournament certainly won’t be a walk in the park with the New Zealand side drawing the top two teams in the world, United States and Japan, in their pool.
‘‘They are going to be tough competition, but we will put up a fight and if we go down, we will go down swinging,’’ Jasiah says.
Representing their country is not something the boys take lightly.
‘‘It brings pride, pulling on that black jersey, the opportunity doesn’t come round that often,’’ centre fielder Cameron says.
‘‘Getting back being able to say
surreal,’’ Jasiah and I’ve been to Mexico, I’ve been to America, it will be awesome.’’
Baseball is rapidly gaining in popularity in New Zealand and inclusions in international tournaments will go a long way to putting New Zealand’s baseball programmes firmly on the map, Baseball New Zealand chief executive Ryan Flynn says.
‘‘There is a buzz across the world about the nation’s young athletes and the nation’s potential in the sport of baseball.’’
‘‘Our participation in Mexico with 17 other nations is proof that our players, coaches and officials are beginning to be recognised for their talents on the field.’’
National honours: Jasiah Shepherd-Niu, Cameron Sutton and Ayrton Laird are off to Mexico in the under-15 New Zealand baseball team.