Record Number of Clubs Heading to National Junior Championships
- Published on Wednesday, 05 April 2017 10:27
- Written by Ian McDonald
The most clubs and players in the sports history, night games and live television are the features for this weeks biggest ever United Airlines U13 Ripken National Baseball Championships to be held at Albany’s Rosedale Park.
The tournament, which kicks off with two games at 9.00 am on Thursday features thirteen (13) teams, the largest field ever for any Baseball New Zealand tournament. The depth of competition and quality of last year’s championship game has been rewarded by SKY Television showing the 3rd/4th place play-off and grand final live on SKY Sport 1 on Sunday afternoon.
“This is a such a crucial development for the sport of baseball,” says Baseball New Zealand CEO Ryan Flynn, who stressed that the focus for baseball is the country’s youngest ballplayers. “Sports fans will have a unique opportunity to watch the best young players in the country competing not only for the championship, but also places in the National U13 All Star team that will travel to the United States in August for the prestigious Cal Ripken World Series, where last year we beat baseball powers Australia and Canada, and nearly took down eventual champion Japan, too.”
With the tournament posing as the main trial for national All Star U13 team selection and a trip to the Ripken World Series in Branson, Missouri in August at stake, the tournament is shaping up as the most important youth baseball showcase in the sport’s history—culminating with the two games on live TV.
“Having the final day of this tournament televised on SKY TV will also put our sport in the shop window and show hundreds of thousands of young boys and girls they can go somewhere with baseball at an age that most sports do not have such huge international opportunities,” said Flynn, adding that a number of the alumni from the country’s first trip to the Ripken World Series are now being scouted by US colleges and professional scouts.
The United Airlines National U13 Ripken tournament runs for four days from the 6th to the 9th of April at Rosedale Park and thirteen club teams from across the nation (Seven from Auckland, two from Wellington, one each from Tauranga, Hawkes Bay, Nelson and Christchurch) will compete for the title, along with pick-up Kiwi ballplayers from Australia and elsewhere. The tournament will come to an exciting conclusion on the championship finals day, with the preceding three days featuring night games for the first time at Rosedale for the sport of baseball.
Diamondblacks, Howick-Pakuranga and former professional Brisbane Bandits pitcher Andrew Marck will be head coach for the All Star team and will be assisted by fellow New Zealand national team member and Adelaide Bite catcher/infielder Connar O’Gorman, along with National Development Officer Dan Tan and long-time Auckland and Counties youth coach Mark Irwin.
Andrew Marck has experience at the Ripken level, having been an assistant to 2016 head coach Randy Yard. “I learned a great deal from Randy on how he managed the team and am looking forward to taking the reins this year,” said Marck, adding that “this is a big step in my coaching career and I’m looking to add my innovative approach to the team.
“We have a very strong coaching staff and I look forward to getting together with them to discuss our approach and the selection process,” said Marck, who himself took a tough 2-1 complete game loss on the mound for his Howick Pakuranga Hawks men’s team this past weekend. “Under 13 is a very important age in a young ball player’s life and I look forward to having an influence on their careers.”
The team will be selected for the August tournament following this weekend’s tournament at Rosedale Park and a series of one-off trials during the first week of school holidays in April in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The 15-player team with alternates will be named soon after the tournament and final trials in three major cities.