Japanese club pitches in to help first Kiwi pro team
A partnership between Baseball New Zealand and one of Japan’s top clubs could see New Zealand’s first professional baseball team flourish from opening day.
The Australian Baseball League (ABL) confirmed last week that they would be welcoming franchises from New Zealand and Korea into the competition this season, expanding the league from six to eight teams.
The New Zealand team was expected to be made up of 12 imports and 10 Kiwis, with plenty of talent on the roster.
Baseball New Zealand chief executive Ryan Flynn told the Herald on Sunday an unidentified club in Japan’s Nippon Baseball League — the No 2 professional league in the world behind Major League Baseball — had already agreed to send players to the New Zealand side every year.
“That’s huge,” Flynn said. The organisation were also in talks with former MLB pitchers John Holdzkom (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Scott Richmond (Toronto Blue Jays) about playing a role in the team. Holdzkom was the first New Zealand representative to pitch in the majors, while Richmond was the first New Zealand citizen to do so.
“Those are two guys we’re very interested in.”
They’d likely join fellow former MLB pitcher Josh Collmenter (Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves), who was expected to be among the first players signed for the team.
Collmenter told the Herald last week he was keen to suit up for the New Zealand franchise. He will be joining the Baseball New Zealand staff in a coaching role this month as a pitching coach for the under-15 development team.
Flynn had also been in touch with several MLB teams about the potential for some of their lower-level players to join the New Zealand club as the ABL runs during the MLB offseason.