Rik­i­hana’s hooked on base­ball

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - By KRIS DANDO

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.

Photo: KRIS DANDO

As­pir­ing Porirua base­baller Rik­i­hana Love.

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