Ay­den pitch­ing for big base­ball fu­ture

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - KRIS DANDO

He’s fur­ther from the plate but his rocket arm is get­ting used to the chal­lenge.

Plim­mer­ton 12-year-old Ay­den Ham­mond joins a New Zealand ju­nior base­ball team in July to take on the world’s best 12-yearold base­ballers in Aberdeen, Mary­land.

The Cal Rip­ken World Se­ries brings to­gether teams from coun­tries like Ja­pan, Mexico, South Korea, New Zealand and Aus­tralia, and sev­eral from the US, for a week-long cel­e­bra­tion of the Amer­ica’s na­tional pas­time.

Though grow­ing up a soft­baller, Ay­den has had two years in base­ball, which is strong­est in Auckland but is es­tab­lish­ing a niche in Welling­ton. He plays for the Porirua Bombers.

Ay­den, a pitcher who can play sev­eral po­si­tions, said he loved the strat­egy of base­ball and couldn’t wait to test him­self against the world’s best young play­ers.

‘‘It’s a big thing for me to rep­re­sent my coun­try,’’ he said.

Thirty-five play­ers tri­alled for the New Zealand team in Auckland. It was a gru­elling trial, with a steady diet of base­ball for five days, five hours a day. ‘‘It was very in­tense. There was agility work, bat­ting, throw­ing, pitch­ing – the whole lot.’’

His body is get­ting used to over­arm pitch­ing and a train­ing regime with his fa­ther, James, is en­sur­ing he warms up prop­erly and doesn’t overdo the pitch­ing and bat­ting.

One main chal­lenge in base­ball was to get used to stand­ing about six feet fur­ther back on the mound.

Aim­ing for a square be­tween a bat­ter’s shoul­ders and waist while think­ing about your pitches and strat­egy takes some get­ting used to, Ay­den said.

He has a fast­ball, slider and sinker and hopes to de­velop more op­tions over time.

A Porirua City United soft­ball player, Ay­den said he had equal af­fec­tion for soft­ball and base­ball.

He plays a lot more soft­ball, but said he en­joyed watch­ing base­ball on TV, cit­ing cen­tre field­ers An­drew McCutchen (Pitts­burgh Pirates) and Mike Trout (Ana­heim An­gels) among his favourite play­ers.

Ay­den hopes the Rip­ken tour­na­ment could be the be­gin­ning of some­thing special in base­ball.

‘I love the game ... Play­ing in the ma­jor leagues [in Amer­ica] would be in­cred­i­ble.’’

PHOTO: KRIS DANDO

Ay­den Ham­mond will be wing­ing his way to the US in July to rep­re­sent New Zealand at base­ball.

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