Base­ball boys step up

Auckland City Harbour News - - SPORT - By BEN ROGERS

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.

‘‘It’s 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.

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