Ja­pa­nese club pitches in to help first Kiwi pro team

Wanganui Chronicle - - Sport - By Christo­pher Reive

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.

John Holdzkom

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