Rikihana’s hooked on baseball
Rikihana Love has grown up with softball, but the sport’s loud and brash cousin is worming its way into his affections.
The talented 12-year-old from Titahi Bay is a third baseman for his Porirua City United team. But two years ago he was bitten by the baseball bug, and now he’s hooked.
His interest mirrors the growth of the sport in Porirua, it’s popularity piggybacking on the success of local star Te Wera Bishop. Bishop sensationally signed with glamour Major League Baseball Club the Boston Red Sox in 2011, when he was just 17.
Although he was released in 2013, Bishop inked a contract with the Milwaukee Brewers earlier this year.
Rikihana’s mother Awhi said Bishop’s efforts, the formation of the Porirua Bombers baseball club, and the recent visit of former US major league player DJ Carrasco has spurred Rikihana into playing the game. He is developing nicely into a pitcher, occasional first baseman and power hitter.
‘‘I love the training – it’s really different and my friends are getting into baseball too,’’ Rikihana said. ‘‘The size of the diamond and the ball were hard to get used to but I’m really enjoying it.’’ His pitches have been clocked at 60kmh and time on the specially constructed baseball mound in the Bishop’s driveway is paying off.
Rikihana joined hundreds of hopefuls in trialling in recent months for the under-12 national baseball side that will travel to the Cal Ripken World Series – named for the legendary Baltimore Orioles shortstop – in Aberdeen, Maryland in July and August.
He and fellow Porirua hopeful Jake Tibbits are down to the final 34, which will be culled to a squad of 15 and three nontravelling reserves in the July school holidays. Rikihana said he is nervous about the long skills and drills sessions they will have to go through as part of the trials, but he’s ready for the test.
‘‘I don’t really know much about the other players but I’m just going to do my best.’’
He said if he makes it, the opportunity to play against the best baseballers his age from countries like the US, Australia, Japan, Mexico and Korea will be unparalleled. Awhi said softball will always be close to her family’s heart, but baseball represents an opportunity to branch out for Rikihana – maybe to follow in Te Wera Bishop’s footsteps – and he’s taking it very seriously.
‘‘When DJ Carrasco was here, Rikihana spent a lot of time with him and he’s training hard. To make this final trial [for New Zealand] is a real achievement and we’re proud of him.’’
Rikihana said his favourite baseballers, aside from Te Wera, is New York Yankees hitters Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter.
Aspiring Porirua baseballer Rikihana Love.