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Posted by on in Baseball New Zealand

Kia Ora...[the New Zealand way to say Good day] ..

Today was my first experience in Nelson promoting and talking baseball, how refreshing, coaches and players who have been playing fast pitch softball are beginning to aspire to be baseball pitchers.

Marty JimThe man in the photo with me is Marty Grant, Marty was arguably the number 1 fast pitch softball pitcher in the world in the 90's...New Zealand national team won many medals with him as the star pitcher. He is now one of the coaches for the baseball program here in Nelson and his 13 year old son,Cooper, and a few of Cooper's buddies want to be big league ball players.

Marty and I visited for a couple hours today discussing the 'art of pitching' baseball versus softball....This is going to be soooo much fun..These kids and coaches love our game.

Starting on January 17 we will have several sessions about pitching through January 31.

The skills the kids have as position players are easily used in playing baseball, actually, they are faster with their reactions because softball is played on a smaller field and the game moves faster, the only difference in the 2 games is the pitcher in baseball throws overhand.

I will be able to teach and demonstrate that in the upcoming sessions. Thank You to the MLBPA Alumni assn for helping me be a part of this rewarding experience.



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Posted by on in Baseball New Zealand

Winter has well and truly settled in so time to update you on our Kiwi players from around the world and what they’re up to on diamonds across the world.

Holdzkom-e1460416117529A couple of months ago, former Pittsburgh Pirates and Diamondblacks pitcher John Holdzkom signed a deal to join the Chicago White Sox and he appears to be on the path back to the majors soon. John has been working out at Chicago’s Arizona base over the last two months in Extended Spring Training while building his arm strength after a series of issues in 2015. He has been pushing through a number of rehab protocols and expects to be sent to one of the White Sox minor league affiliates by the end of June.

Diamondblacks pitcher Nick Maronde is also on the up again after an early season Maronde Columbusinjury hampered his progress at Cleveland Indians AAA affiliate Columbus Clippers—after just three games where he’d picked up a save and given up just one run on five hits and five walks for a 1.80 ERA. Since being activated Nick has been pitching for the Akron Rubberducks, the Indians AA team. In 11 games for the Ducks he has an ERA of 1.69 and 11 strikeouts, giving up just two earned runs on 12 hits over 10.2 innings of work.

Max MissoulaReturning to Arizona, Diamondbacks and Diamondblacks outfielder Max Brown has exploded out of the blocks for the Missoula Ospreys in the rookie Pioneer League after working hard in extended spring training at the D’backs Salt River Fields complex. In his first three games Max is batting .444, going 4 for 9 with a triple, RBI and two runs, posting an incredible 1.282 OPS. Max had a solid 2015 rookie campaign with the D’backs in the Arizona Rookie League, batting .265 with 36 hits including five triples and four doubles in 38 games and his work in the off season has obviously paid dividends.

Baseball New Zealand’s Lincoln Holdzkom International Player of the Year and Diamondblacks pitcher Jimmy Boyce has had a huge 2016 already and it’s only June. After picking up the win against the Philippines for the Diamondblacks at February’s World Baseball Classic Qualifier in Sydney, he had a high school suspension hanging Jimmy Boyceover his head, but thanks to common sense being showed by the Washington State High School Sports Authority, the decision was successfully appealed and Boyce had a superb spring season. He finished as conference Player of the Year and picked up all-star team honours at Pitcher and third base for his Mt Si High School team, as well as Seattle player of the year in the top city newspaper.

Matt ReevesNew Zealand U21 representative Matt Reeves is having a great season with his Clarendon College team in Division One of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 5 in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference (WJCAC), where they currently sit fourth. Freshman Matt has played outfield in 44 of 55 games Clarendon has played and is putting an excellent record together, batting .327 with two triples, nine doubles, 54 runs and 29 RBI. Clarendon College is based in Texas and sits in the backyard of the NCAA Big 10 conference, feeding such high profile schools as Oklahoma State University, Texas A & M and Texas Tech.

In Kansas, New Zealand U21 corner infielder Scott Drinkwater is back playing after an injury plagued 2014/15 at Avila University in Kansas. Scott missed the whole spring/summer 2015 season after he broke his hand five days before he was supposed to begin his first seasonscott drinkwater 18 mba with Avila and he played last summer in San Francisco for the Bay Area Tides before heading back to Kansas. The Junior, who is majoring in Finance and has played in 24 games so far this season, hitting a couple of home runs and four doubles.

Mitchell Gray is looking forward to a busy season with Trinidad State Junior College after red-shirting his freshman year. Mitchell says he has used the year to get stronger and work on his pitching mechanics. This summer he will be playing in a collegiate league in Colorado and will play 36 games in 6 weeks, with kids from across the country who come up for the summer.

In Germany, Diamondblacks Third baseman Daniel Lamb-Hunt is continuing his hot form in the spring portion of the Bundesliga, Germany’s top domestic baseball league.

Lamb Hunt

Now playing in his fifth season with the Bonn Capitals, Daniel is proving to be ‘Mr. Reliable’ at third base and with the bat, too, hitting .383 after 16 games of the 2016 season, with four home runs, five doubles and 19 RBI. Over the recent weekend series against the Sollingen Alligators he hit 4-7 with two doubles and three RBI, striking out just once.

Boss NiigataDiamondblacks slugger and 1st base Boss Moanaroa is finding his feet in his first season playing in Japan for Niigata Albirex in the Independent Baseball Challenge League. After moving there at the beginning of April it has taken time to adapt to the lifestyle and different baseball culture in Japan but Boss said recently: “I've adapted really well, I love the country and the people here are awesome. I have also adapted quite well to the style of baseball here and I’m playing every game mixing between first and DH.” Boss added: “My hitting is going well now, as I started the season off slow but have now found my straps and hitting the ball really well.” Having grown up in Australia and played in the U.S., the game is quite different in Japan, but Boss said the standard is similar to the Australian Baseball League (ABL), with the ABL being consistently stronger on most nights.

Just a few days after Boss Moanaroa confirmed his Japanese stint, fellow Diamondblack Connar O’Gorman secured his own playing opportunity with the Kagawa Olive Guyners in the Independent Shikoku Island League. The catcherConnar Kagawa was based in Germany in 2015, where he played for the Hamburg Stealers and Degendorf Dragons before heading back to Australia to play for ABL runners-up, the Adelaide Bite, where he had a tremendous season for the Bite. O’Gorman is currently back in Australia as his league has a six-week break but is looking forward to build on his steady beginnings in Japan before embarking on another ABL season. While Connar found the going tough early on, he showed huge improvement heading in to the break and will be looking forward to flying back in August to build on his recent momentum with his ball club.

A number of young Kiwis are making huge strides in the game of baseball with their new beginnings in Canada, with Bayside Westhaven Baseball Club and New Zealand U18 pitcher Connor Gleeson in Ontario and Central City Baseball Club U18 outfielder Jake May is living and training in Edmonton before heading to college, and another top Bayside Westhaven pitcher Ben Thompson is continuing to pitch for the Okotoks Dawgs in Edmondton before heading to college in Arizona.

Gleeson OntarioGleeson headed to Ontario in April following a family holiday which featured a visit to Arizona Diamondbacks stadium, Chase Field where he got to meet plenty of D’Backs superstars including Paul Goldschmidt and Patrick Corbin. Connor is playing for the Ontario Royals U18 team, following in the footsteps of two previous Kiwis, Quinten Niu and Matt Boyce under the watchful eye of former New Zealand coach Matt Mills. Gleeson has had two starts with Ontario since his arrival, and in his second start he pitched a seven-inning complete game gem, giving up just two hits and a walk while striking out six. Prior to heading to Ontario, Connor was invited to try out at four junior colleges and after being invited back by three of the four has decided he will sign a letter of intent to play at South Florida State Community College in August, which is situated in Avon Park, approximately 135kms southeast of the Tampa/St Petersburg cities.

National U18 tournament batting title winner Jake May has also headed to Canada recently to work out with the Edmonton Prospects Baseball team, coached by Oceania Coaching Director Ray Brown, who was last in New Zealand for the U18 Oceania Championships in early 2015. Jake is only training with the team but hopes to play the odd pick-up game while in Edmonton before he heads to Houston, Texas to begin the fall semester at Alvin Community College, one of many who are heading to college at the same time.

Ben Thompson 1Diamondblacks squad pitcher Ben Thompson (Glendowie College) is college bound, too, later this winter after another standout stint with the Okotoks Dawgs Academy in Canada, heading to Chandler Gilbert Community College, just outside of Phoenix in Arizona. And Counties Manukau shortstop Jason Matthews (Alfriston College, Auckland) is off to Southeastern Junior College in Iowa to begin his American baseball journey in August. Jason MVPHowever, before his planned departure Jason will be heading to the Major League Baseball Academy on the Gold Coast along with fellow Aucklanders Kyle Glogoski (Howick College, Auckland) from Bayside-Westhaven, Howick-Pakuranga’s Elliott Johnstone (Sacred Heart College) and Correze Nepia (Auckland Grammar).

Christchurch pitcher Matt Boyce is also in the U.S. at College of the Canyons in California, but unfortunately injured his pitching arm during fall baseball at college and by the time it came right the spring season was well underway, so Matt decided to redshirt for the season and retain his full four years of NCAA eligibility. He has concentrated on developing arm strength and worked with the pitching coach on pitching technique and will be back in New Zealand over the summer break to work on fitness and conditioning. Matt heads back to the U.S. in August for his first official junior college baseball games and aims to be an integral part of the college baseball team for the upcoming fall and spring seasons.

Young Diamondblacks pitcher Ben Hughlon is readying himself for another fall season with his West GeorgiaBen Hughlon Technical College. Ben says the team were disappointed with how they finished last season and the team and himself are working hard to make sure they accomplish their goals during the spring. Another teenage pitcher, southpaw Diamondblacks hurler and outfielder Jacob Curry has recently signed a letter of intent to attend Benedictine College in Kansas and will be starting his collegiate journey after playing for New Zealand in February in Sydney. Jacob says he’s raring to go after an injury-plagued last few months and will be in top shape come August when he reports to his new school.

quintenniusmlAnother key New Zealand player who has already begun his college baseball career in the U.S. is catcher Quinten Niu who began his North American baseball life at Ontario with Matt Boyce and has since played a semester at Central Arizona College, former school of Diamondblacks shortstop and former Blue Jay Scott Campbell and former Reds farmhand Randy Yard. Niu has since moved schools after some time back in New Zealand and will be heading to Pima College in Arizona in August.

Well that’s it for now, so keep pitching, hitting, fielding or just following the great game of baseball and I’ll be back soon with another update.

Yours in Baseball,

Ian McDonald

Wedz is yet to hit a auto but hit 2 doubles yesterday one off the green monster and one off centrefield fence with loaded bases (clearing the bases). He also threw a runner out at in the game. This takes him to 8rbi's, 5 walks, 2 sacs and 4 doubles with a .375 Average (9-24) and 1 from 1 on steal attempts against him.
The coaches are really happy with his calling because he has had 24 innings catching so far with 3 runs and calling two 1 hit games as well.every week, we catch up and talk baseball and it seems like he is doing well with the transition."

Wedz is yet to hit a auto but hit 2 doubles yesterday one off the green monster and one off centrefield fence with loaded bases (clearing the bases). He also threw a runner out at in the game. This takes him to 8rbi's, 5 walks, 2 sacs and 4 doubles with a .375 Average (9-24) and 1 from 1 on steal attempts against him.
The coaches are really happy with his calling because he has had 24 innings catching so far with 3 runs and calling two 1 hit games as well.na every week, we catch up and talk baseball and it seems like he is doing well with the transition."

Wedz is yet to hit a auto but hit 2 doubles yesterday one off the green monster and one off centrefield fence with loaded bases (clearing the bases). He also threw a runner out at in the game. This takes him to 8rbi's, 5 walks, 2 sacs and 4 doubles with a .375 Average (9-24) and 1 from 1 on steal attempts against him.
The coaches are really happy with his calling because he has had 24 innings catching so far with 3 runs and calling two 1 hit games as well.

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Goodyear Arizona, Goodyear Ballpark – Home of the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians Spring Training.

It was a much different feel walking into the clubhouse as a coach and not a player; instead of being filled with butterflies and nerves about how things would pan out for me this season, I caught myself checking out the players as I walked past them. I had to walk by the gym to get inside so I would be looking at these guys and thinking things like—good pitchers’ body or very athletic, or this guy probably could have worked a little harder in the off season… I realised then that I have really become a coach/scout, an analyst of every part of the game.

I didn’t have the nerves I thought I might as I asked around for the clubhouse manager. Finding him, I introduced myself and he said straight back to me, ‘Oh yeah, you’re the KIWI in an excited tone, come with me and I’ll show you around.’

Riki Reds LockerThe first thing we do is visit my locker…and there it was, Riki Paewai at the top, and wait for it – PAEWAI across the back of my jersey! This is when I got a little giddy, as the locker stocked full of every bit of equipment I would need, from new shoes to a new fungo bat.

After briefly checking all of this out, he takes me to meet the minor league field co-ordinator Billy Doran, who showed me around the place and briefed me on the day’s schedule, inviting me to choose what I do and where I go throughout the day.

At this point in Spring Training it is mostly pitchers and catchers in camp—all up 72 minor league pitchers and around 20 catchers.

8:30am - We have our coaches meeting to brief on the day’s schedule and Billy introduced me to the crew whilst pointing out I got in yesterday after 19hrs in transit, and that they all had to make sure I didn’t fall asleep. The feeling amongst this coaching staff is all about fun and being laid back; it is awesome to be a part of it.

We were on the field for warm up at 9.00 am, and some of the guys have already been doing early work which is mostly the catchers hitting in the cages. Every ball club, from Rookie Ball (lowest level of minor league baseball) to AAA’s (Triple A—one step below the Major Leagues), trainers are out there to get everyone warmed up and stretched – imagine eight trainers warming up close to 100 guys in the right field line, it was a spectacle!

After warm up and stretches, the players split off into several groups to throw. The sessions run on four fields and then end up working in smaller ‘stations.’ There would be one group throwing bullpens whilst the rest did defensive PFP (pitchers fielding practice) on each of the fields. One field would have bunt coverages, and the next plays at 1st base; the next plays at second and then the fourth worked on pick-offs. Whilst all this is happening another group of pitchers is getting warmed up to throw their sides (bullpen) and catchers that aren’t catching sides are working on pop-ups.

Each session runs to time and the horn blows and all the groups rotate to their next station like a well-oiled machine. There is no messing around as everyone makes sure to get their work in.

I spent the day in the “six-pack” (the practice bullpen where there are six pitching mounds). Pitchers would throw 25 pitches and the catchers would keep count. At the end of each bullpen they would throw two pitch outs.

After talking with the pitching coaches about the players and what they need to work on and what could help them, it was good to learn that we’re on the same page, which just goes to show that baseball is very similar no matter what country you play it in. We discussed how everyone is different and that you can’t simply try to get pitchers to use the same mechanics rather try to tweak little things and see what works best.

The last training session prior to lunch is BP (batting practice) where coaches had to help shag as the pitchers were going through their conditioning. Luckily the groups weren’t too big as not all position players were in camp yet. I spent the time chatting to coaches and finding out the things they like to teach and see from their players, what the season is like at the different clubs and how the selection process works.

Day two begins by arriving at 6am. Having showered and geared up I made my way to breakfast, and you’ve got to love the spring training buffet! I sat down with a few of the coaches and talked baseball, their journeys and their expectations for the season. Seth Etherton (a 1st round draft pick in ’98 with the Los Angeles Angels and went on to play in the Majors’ with four different clubs, as well as playing in Korea’s top league) told me about his transition from player to coach and how he coached college ball before coming to the Reds. His family will travel with him when he breaks for season with the Reds short season A ball affiliate and his wife home schools the kids which he says makes it easier to be a professional coach, he said, especially not having to leave the family for eight to nine months at a time.

After breakfast I went to my locker and sat and talked with all the guys, and it was incredible to hear all of their different stories. At 8.30 am, we had the coaches meeting and the discussion focused on the day’s schedule and the any significant issues regarding individual players.

Riki Reds Training9.20am - On the field to stretch and warm up and each team breaks to do this at their respective fields with their team’s strength and conditioning coach.

9.40am – Fundamentals with pitchers who are throwing sides on two separate fields. This session is spent with all the pitching coaches to talk more about the intricacies of the game, while all non-throwing pitchers continue with their conditioning.

9.45am to 10.30am – Early work for position players, and infielders were in the cages or on the half field working on pick-off coverages while outfielders were split the same between cages and outfield drills. The catchers do their hitting in the cages.

10.40am – Position players throwing program.

10.50am – Position players move to their team’s respective fields to go through their defensive routines, while pitchers do their throwing program on their team’s field.

11.10am – The teams run through bunt plays, while outfielders serve as base runners to ensure both sets of players are getting their work in.

11.30am – Batting Practice. During BP pitchers rotate through 12-minute stations (small groups focused on various skills) for their sides (bullpens).

12.30pm LUNCH

Riki Reds Training 3On day three I spent the day with James Baldwin (former MLB pitcher for 11 years), who is in his first season coaching with the Reds. He previously coached high school baseball, so we talked a lot about the differences between coaching at this level in compared to coaching at the high school or college level. We focused on running one of the pitchers’ fundamentals stations where James had me hit fungos (hitting groundballs, flyballs to players) for him. It was interesting to witness how professionals at this level still keep it fun with a bit of competition throw in.

I spent the second half of the day in the “six-pack” watching the pitchers throw their sides. Behind the catchers and off to the side are several guys with video cameras recording the pitchers. They do this so they can go back to the video room where the coaches can sit down with individual pitcher and go over everything that they are working on and what they might need to fix. I paid a little visit to this room and it’s had everything a TV studio or production room would have, with multiple screens running video from all different players and scouts and coaches analysing every move and shot. The coaches told me that during MLB camp with the 25 players on the Big League roster, there would are analysts in the room watching it from every angle.

Day four was pretty similar to others apart from the fact that I was invited to the Big League Spring Training game against the Texas Rangers. The atmosphere was unreal, and nothing beats an American hot dog!

Day five focussed on the mental side of baseball, where the coaches would discuss the different aspects of the mental game—and I was asked to run the station that dealt with controlling the running game with Seth Etherton. It was a great feeling being asked to take the lead on this. Seth would start with controlling the running game from a mechanical stand point, varying looks and timing, changing your moves and so on.

He then would introduce me to the guys and give them a background on my baseball history and what I do for a living, and I would then talk to them about how to keep the game from speeding up on them. The main focus was on making sure you get good work in when practicing these things so that come game time the situation doesn’t get away from you. This included the obvious fact of how at each level a players rises through the ranks, the crowds get bigger as well as does the pressure.

Batting practice started and each field had five pitchers throw live BP, and I was asked to sit with Seth behind the pitcher to help him assess each pitch and the pitcher’s delivery—focusing on what we have been working on with each of them. We were with the Class A team, where some players had issues with command and others with their off-speed pitches. The guys were always very receptive of what Seth had for them. In saying that, though, most were very dominant and showed why they were there—a lot of hard work in the off season and plenty of commitment.

On my final day here at Reds Spring Training camp, I was wishing I could stay longer. But I can’t miss the National Championships back in NZ!

I’ve learned so much in the short week already, and wasn’t ready to stop, but as they say ‘All good things come to an end’ and was excited about implementing the lessons and knowledge I learned back home in New Zealand.

I met with Eric Lee (Manager of Baseball Operations) on the final day. He’s my boss, and we discussed all things Baseball New Zealand and Cincinnati Reds. It was great to finally get to sit down and share thoughts on global baseball, especially our country and its prospects.

Riki Reds Training BabyAnd when I returned to my locker after practice, there was surprise waiting for me: a Reds gift bag. The label on it read, “Dear Riki, for the little girl, E.” Eric had bought my new baby daughter an awesome little Reds supporter dress as well as a Reds supporter bib! I was blown away to say the least. So a big thank you to Eric Lee and told me a lot about their leadership style and culture in the organisation.

The Reds have serious interest in the talent in New Zealand, and after talking with Eric I can attest to how much they hope our program grows.

My final coaches meeting of Spring Training 2016, the guys set me up: at the end of the meeting it was announced that the Major Leagues needed a couple of guys to throw BP—and I was the only guy not already assigned to something for the day. I won’t lie…I packed it! I cannot throw BP to Big Leaguers! A couple seconds went by, and the joke was on me. The coaches broke out laughing, and I guess the look on my face was a Kodak moment. We had a couple more laughs, and I said my ‘thank yous’ for allowing me to learn from everyone in camp.

Training took place on the usual schedule. After stretch and throw, I was assigned to hit fungos on field three while we were running pitchers’ coverage at first. Once the individual trainings were finished it was time for team defence. We were working on bunt plays again, (practice makes perfect) and these plays are obviously the ones that are most difficult and make all the difference when a player manages to get these right.

I was on the same field as the catchers’ co-ordinator for these drills, and his name is Corky Miller.  I’m not sure if you remember him, but he’s one of those guys that grinded through the years, up and down from the Big Leagues. Corky was intense! If his catchers weren’t on point, he would make sure they were the next time through. It was good to see it in action, and just how quickly these guys would make adjustments. Each time something didn’t go right during these drills, everyone would come to the mound and discuss what happened and how to handle it next time.

BP –Batting practice ran for just over an hour, and I was able to drift between coaches, listening to their various approaches and different ways of teaching. (I say teaching because each coach has a different approach, though they are all aligned with the Reds philosophies.) It was really enlightening to see the different approaches, some much more laid back and others rather intense, like Corky.

After BP we wrapped up the day’s activities. We headed back to the clubhouse and grabbed lunch. Eric sat with me at lunch where he proceeded to tell me that I could take my jersey (with my name on it) home with me! I was stoked!

So before I packed up my locker I had one last thing to do—catch up with a couple of old friends: Donald Lutz and Ray Chang. Donald Lutz came to Brisbane to play in the off season when he had first started out with the Reds and stayed with a close family friend of mine. ‘Lutzy’ is a German national and made his Major League debut with the Reds two years ago. He was released last year after having Tommy John (elbow) surgery and then re-signed with the Reds after playing a key role for the Brisbane Bandits in winning this past year’s ABL Championship. I found him in the cages hitting off a tee, and I told him it was great to see him back with the Reds and I hope to see him back in the ‘Bigs’ soon.

I played with Ray Chang when I was with the San Diego Padres organisation, which is going back almost 10 years. Needless to say, when I finally found Ray, it only took a moment for him to hear my accent before he knew what was going on and who I was. Ray is an awesome guy and plays a huge role in the growth of baseball in China. He played for China in the 2009 World Baseball Classic (WBC) where he homered and drove in two runs while going 3-4 with a slick defensive play to help China beat Chinese Taipei for China's first WBC win. This made Ray a huge icon in Chinese baseball, and he told me that he now goes back to China each off season to help grow the sport there. I can’t tell you how awesome it was to catch up with these two guys and I wish them all the best.

So that’s it…my Spring Training experience has come to an end. I went back to my locker and packed all my gear; I said my goodbyes to all the guys that really let me in and helped to teach me a bunch of valuable lessons. Each of them was awesome and wished me all the best in my ventures. Finally, I went and saw Billy one last time to thank him for throwing me in the deep end and allowing me to learn on the fly. He said he was happy to have me, and, best of all, would enjoy having me back. Always a good feeling to hear such sentiments!

So until next time, work hard, play hard and hopefully you will be on these Field of Dreams sometime in the near future!

Riki Reds Training 2

Riki Paewai, Cincinnati Reds Spring Training, 2016.

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Day Two

After a fantastic first day, it was an early rise at 5:30am to be at the ball park by 6:30am to get ready for the day ahead, where temperatures were forecast to be in the high 30’s, so sunscreen was essential.

As soon as I arrive, I enter through the ‘Players Entrance’ as everyone in the front office doesn’t arrive until 9am and the schedule for the day is pinned to the wall of the Coaches locker room to ensure all the staff are informed of their duties for the day and more importantly…on time.

I am scheduled to work with the pitchers on Rag Ball Hot Shots and hit Fungo at BP (Batting Practice).

Another reason to check the schedule is to find out whether the game in the afternoon is Home or Away. This decides what colour pants you wear for the day…

Home game – White Pants.

Away Game – Grey Pants.

The last thing you would want to do, is walk into the coaches meeting with the wrong colour pants on!!! Hahaha.

JS15To start things off we discussed the previous days game verses the Giants…What we did well...What we didn’t do so well.

At this level, I have noticed the coaches really emphasise attention to detail. The smallest things can make the biggest difference on a game and ultimately it can determine whether you win or lose.

But the main topic of the meeting was the Jonathan Papelbon/Bryce Harper incident the night before. The coaches decided it would be a great topic to discuss with the players about ‘policing’ team protocols and playing baseball ‘the right way’… It was decided this topic would be presented to the players the next day.

Once the meeting had commenced, we hustled to the Conference Room to review yesterday’s game with the players.

The main points discussed were:

Way to hang in the game to come from 0-5 down to take the lead 6-5 bottom of the 8th inning.

A few mental errors stopped us from winning the game… Mistakes running the bases stopped us from scoring and enabled the Giants to score a run and tie the game (6-6) top of the 9th inning.

We need to be prepared both mentally and physically to be able to perform day in day out.

As soon as the meeting had finished, we broke into our ‘Early Work’ groups.

I had the pleasure of hitting rag balls at the pitchers (close range) to simulate fielding and making a good throw to the correct base.

Not only can these kids pitch in the 90mph range, but they also have cat like reflexes when it comes to making the play in the field, but the highlight of my day came in BP session

It was my turn to hit fungo to the 2nd baseman and short stop while each group took turns to hit.

I was raking the ball as hard as I could and these kids are like vacuums… Sucking up every baseball that was coming their way.

There was plenty of friendly banter going on with the coaches and the players as I was trying to see how many balls I could hit past them during each fungo session…I can’t say I was that successful!!!

After lunch we all piled into the vans and drove to Scottsdale for our game against the Giants.

JS4It was awesome to see the World Series Champion signs on their fences and buildings around the facility and I can imagine the likes of Barry Bonds, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner playing on the same diamonds as 20 years olds during their time in Scottsdale.

This game was a totally different story from the previous day.

We took an early 4-0 lead after the 1st inning from a Grand Slam shot from Jhonny Rodríguez, a  player from the Dominican Republic… You should’ve seen this ball fly!!!

The pitching from our young prospects was more consistent than the day before, with a higher percentage of first pitch strikes which lead to a favourable count and more strike outs.

Again the defensive play by both teams was impressive. Outfield assists, base runners getting picked off stealing 2nd base and turning double plays on the regular.

What constantly amazes me, is how effortless these players make the game look… It’s awesome to watch.

The Giants rallied late in the 7th inning to try and make the score close, but we were deserved winners today 9-5.

I am proud to say I am still unbeaten as an A’s coach!!! Hahaha.

Day Three is scheduled as a ‘Camp Day’…Apparently everything is pretty relaxed on these days.

We will see…


Day Three

Day Three was what the Organisation called a ‘Camp Day’.

The day would consist of drills and workouts in the morning, with an Intersquad game in the afternoon.

The level of intensity was significantly different and more relaxed than the previous two days, which was a welcome relief to the players as they had been working hard over the past week.

Again we began the day with a Coaches Meeting to discuss yesterday’s game vs the Giants and also the line ups for the Intersquad game and it was decided that this game will be more ‘Situational’ than ‘Performance’, especially for the pitchers.

JS23The pitchers would get 15x pitches as normal, then 15x pitches with runners on base to simulate different situations.

The game would also serve a purpose to get AB’s (At Bats) for the players who have been injured and have been given approval from the team doctor to come off the DL (Disabled List) and they would also focus on ‘moving runners’, while the defence would be ‘corners in/middle back’.

Once the Coaches Meeting had wrapped up, everyone made their way to the Conference Room to discuss the topic for the morning – Policing Team Protocols.

It was discussed that good teams ‘police’ each other, they do not rely on the Manager to lay down the law all the time and each player should be accountable to their Manager and Teammates.

Separate yourself by performing like a winner EVERY PLAY, regardless of the score or the position on the table and always decide to be the best player you can be. Effort is a variable that you can control.

Coaches see it. Teammates see it. Opposing teams see it. And the habits you create now are habits you will take with you throughout your career.

After lunch the Intrasquad game commenced and as stated above this game was to serve more of a training exercise for the coaches to give an ‘In Game’ situation and how the players can adapt.

Once again the skills and talent these players have was on show with baseballs being crushed, gloves on show and fastballs in excess of 90mph.

These guys have game.

Day Four

I arrived at Fitch Park at 6:30am to get dressed into our uniform and ready for the coaches meeting scheduled at 7am and I have quickly come to realise everything runs to time as there is a lot of content to get through each day.

Time management is key to any successful organisation and Aaron Nieckula aka Nuke (Field Coordinator) is charged with the task of maximising every single minute of this Instruct camp.

It amazed me how fluid each session was run and the effect this had on the coaching staff and players… Always something to do… Always somewhere to be……..Nuke is a master of his craft.

During the meeting the topic of Justine Siegel was discussed. The Athletics had agreed to let Justine attend the Instructs for the next two weeks and this was becoming big news in the United States.

“First Female Coach Hired in the MLB” was one of the main headlines in the press.

Keith Lieppman, (Director of Player Development and head of the A’s development program) gave us all a run down on how to handle ourselves in a professional manner if approached by the press. It was quite a funny exercise, but necessary at the same time.

We were all looking forward to meeting Justine to gain a fresh baseball perspective in a male dominated industry.

Next on the schedule was a hitting meeting with Hitting Coach Greg Sparks (Sparky).

Sparky has been with the A’s organisation for a while now and has extensive experience in the area of swinging a bat and the topic of the meeting was ‘The 2K Approach – How To Be A Professional Hitter’.

Sparky had setup a power point presentation and involved Mental Health Coach Marc Strickland quite a lot as the philosophy within the A’s is being a successful hitter is associated with a successful mindset.

To be a good 2K hitter, you have to be ready for any pitch. Foul off any tough pitch. Battle at the plate. Know the umpires strike zone. Don’t leave the 3rd strike in their hands. Have an attacking mentality… Be dangerous… Get ready to do damage… Don’t become defensive.

It takes a mental approach to become a 2K hitter – It’s not a talent based skill and you need to be focused, be patient and have discipline… You are never out of an AB with 2K.

The more pitches you see, the better hitter you will become.

2K hitting is an uncomfortable position to be in. Focus on the aspects you can control (mechanics, mindset & attitude). This will help ease your stress levels. SEE the game, don’t just WATCH it.

JS74Once the meeting had commenced, the players had their allocated warm up and stretch stations to get ready for the tough day ahead.

Todays scheduled consisted of the Batting Cage, Infield and Outfield work for the Position players.

Catchers and Pitchers had a separate schedule to attend to, which included a Throwing Program, Shadows and Hats. These boys put in work like I’ve never seen!!!

We had lunch onsite at 11am to ensure we were dressed and ready for the game vs the Kansas City Royals at midday.

It was a tough fought game with both teams putting up runs in the first 4 innings.

We had the lead 4-3 until the Royals went on a 6 run tear top of the 8th inning, which we were unable to come back from. A tough loss, but valuable lessons learnt, which is the main reason for the Instructional League.

Back to improving and getting better tomorrow.

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FOREWORD by Ryan Flynn -

As the sport of baseball grows and is strengthened across New Zealand, a number of important partnerships are also being strengthened including those with professional and amateur baseball organizations across the globe. One of the most important relationships producing tangible results for our players, coaches, administrators and umpires is our relationship with Major League Baseball(MLB), the premiere professional baseball league in the world.

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Posted by on in Baseball New Zealand

It's Championship time for many North American college and high school teams and plenty of Kiwi Baseballers are featuring in these high pressure series over the next few weeks.

Yes I am still here and I know I haven't written an update in a while, but there's so much going on around the world with our Kiwi's on the diamonds, so time to let you know what's been happening.

JohnHoldzkom IndyAfter a productive spring training on the mound for New Zealand Diamondblacks pitcher John Holdzkom with Pittsburgh Pirates, he was designated to Triple-A Indianapolis Indians to begin 2015 and so far has pitched fairly well. Just one outing when he gave up a few runs has distorted John's stats and having now pitched in 12 games (the most for any Indianapolis pitcher) has a 1-0 record with 2 saves and an ERA of 5.56. John is currently on the 7-day Disabled List with arm fatigue. We're all hopeful that John can maintain his form and return to the Big Show (MLB) with Pittsburgh soon.

New Zealand's other MLB hopeful is Wellingtons Te Wera (Beau) Bishop who is getting plenty of game time in Milwaukee Brewers extended spring training after being signed in February by then Brewers Manager Ron Roenicke who was in the country assisting our programme. By all accounts Beau is working hard on his game and has had good feedback from his coaches on his progress.

Prior to the 2014 NCAA Baseball season getting underway, Makauley Fox's Oregon State University (OSU) and Max Brown's Kansas State University were both ranked amongst some of the best college baseball programmes in the country, so expectations were high for both in 2015.

MakFox OSU2015Diamondblacks pitcher Mak (ACG College, Parnell) is now a sophomore at Oregon State and has pitched well in relief so far in 2015. In 8 appearances for the Beavers, Mak has pitched 6 innings, collecting a save on the way to an outstanding ERA of just 1.50, giving up just 1 run on 5 hits over the season. Oregon State currently sit 2nd in Pac-12 standings and have just one more series against Cal State before the play offs begin. OSU roughly need to make the top 4 in Pac-12 and are currently 19th overall, with a top 16 position meaning they will host their first play off opponents.

MaxBrown Headshot KSUFellow Diamondblack, outfielder Max Brown (Bellevue College, Washington) has been in great form to this year for the Kansas State University Wildcats and celebrated that success by being named the Big-12 player of the week in April, a huge honour for the senior in his last year at College. With the regular season coming to a close in the next two weeks, Kansas State sit 6th in Big 12 standings, while Max is hitting .273 with 30 RBI from his 50 hits and an outstanding .990 fielding percentage from the outfield. Congratulations to Max for his player of the week title and good luck in the next stage of your baseball career.

A couple of Aucklanders have been achieving great success in the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) Division 2 competition, with Luke Hansen (Pakuranga College, Auckland) and Daniel Bradley (St Peters College, Auckland) both winning their respective regional season titles.

Luke's Scottsdale Community College Artichokes came from behind in the three game finals series against Phoenix College to win the series 2-1 to claim the Region I, Div 2 title, winning the decisive game three by 10 to 4. As a freshman with the Artichokes, Luke played in just under half of the teams games, with 11 hits in 56 at bats with 7 walks.

danielbradley NIACC2015Meanwhile, fellow Aucklander Daniel Bradley's North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) Trojans out lasted Southwestern Community College in the Region XI Division 2 play offs shutting them out in the final game, winning 7-nil, after winning the first game in the series 12-7 earlier in the day. Daniel starred with the bat for the Trojans finishing with a .362 average, hitting 11 home runs and collecting a mammoth 58 RBI in 59 games. To add to his already glowing baseball resume Daniel is now the all-time hits leader for the Trojans with 139 hits in his two seasons there. He finished top-10 in conference in runs scored (30), triples (1), and home runs (9), and was named to the NJCAA Region XI first-team, the ICCAC batter of the week this week, and will be heading to the NJCAA Division II World Series with his team. This is Daniel's last year at NIACC and he is headed to study and play his baseball at Missouri Baptist University in St Louis next year.

Australian based Kiwi catcher/infielder Connar O'Gorman is now playing his baseball in Germany for the Hamburg Stealers. After a slow start to the season for the Stealers, losing their first six games, they've staged a comeback to get their season back on track with three straight wins. Connar has caught all 9 games so far and is picking up his hitting after his own slow personal start to baseball life in Europe.

After an impressive 21U Baseball World Cup in Taiwan, Scott Drinkwater (St Kentigern College, Auckland) was looking forward to beginning life at Avila University in Kansas. But in the final pre-season game Scott broke a bone in his hand just 5 days before the season started, meaning no baseball for him. He's since had surgery on the hand to remove bone fragments and is now back in San Francisco to play for the Bay Area Tides club over the next three months and will hopefully be back in action for Avila next spring. Without him, Avila made it to the play-offs, but got knocked out in the conference tournament.

Former Howick-Pakuranga infielder Nick Koh (Elim Christian College, Auckland & City College of San Francisco) has been starring for his Indiana Wesleyan University team in his first year at the school and is the top player in the NAIA in fielding with an outstanding .990 fielding percentage. In 36 games, Nicks been steady at the plate, with a .193 average with a good on base average of .319, with 3 RBI and 11 runs. Unfortunately the Wildcats were eliminated from the Crossroads League Tournament on Monday afternoon following a 9-4 loss to No. 2-seed Huntington (Ind.) at Forest Glen Field in Huntington, Indiana. No. 6-seed Indiana Wesleyan opened the tournament on Saturday at No. 3-seed Spring Arbor (Mich.) and lost 5-3. The four teams in the Huntington Bracket converged on Huntington on Monday where Indiana Wesleyan was eliminated by the host team. The Wildcats finished their regular season at the end of April with a 24-28 record.

National 18U starting pitcher Ben Thompson has linked up with Diamondblacks pitcher Jamie Wilson's former club in Canada, the Okotoks Dawgs, on a high school scholarship, while fellow 18U Canterbury pitcher Matthew Boyce and New Zealand 21U slugger Quinten Niu are also in Canada to play in a leading summer baseball league with the Ontario Royals linking up with former New Zealand Baseball coach Matt Mills as a precursor to college baseball in America. All three have had good starts to their stints in Canada with both Ben and Matt recording wins for their respective teams while Quinten has already picked up a few hits early in the season.

Fellow New Zealand 18U batting stars Cooper Hutchinson (Mt Albert Grammar School, Auckland) from Central City Baseball Club and Counties shortstop Jason Matthews (Alfriston College, Auckland) are heading to the European Major League Baseball Academy in the Netherlands, while six others, Auckland-based Jordan Hoskings (St Kentigern College, Auckland), Connor Gleeson (Glendowie College, Auckland), Matt Thomas (Glendowie College, Auckland) and Kyle Glogoski (Howick College, Auckland) from Bayside-Westhaven, Howick-Pakuranga's Dylan Irwin (Botany Downs Secondary College) as well as Wellington-based outfielder Siona Gray (Porirua College, Wellington), will join the MLB Academy on the Gold Coast of Australia in August of this year.

I caught up with Cooper recently and asked him about going to the academy, "Travelling to the other side of the world to link up with some of the world's best age grade players and top level MLB coaches is a stunning opportunity" he said, adding "An opportunity such as this is unparalleled in sport in this country."

Cooper said that having someone with him like "Jason (Matthews), who is a good friend, will make the experience so much better as going to the other side of the world can be daunting on your own and we will both be in the ideal position to learn more about the sport and help us both improve our own game."
Another four young kiwi ballplayers are in Northern California at the Napa Valley Community College. Hamish Witters (Kings College, Auckland), Jack Malcolm (Auckland Grammar School) and Oliver and Thomas Weaver (Macleans College, Auckland) are all gaining valuable baseball experience.

In August, five young Aucklanders will get the trip of a lifetime to Chiba, Japan, for the World Children's Baseball Fair. The event was founded in 1989 by baseball home run kings Sadaharu Oh and Hank Aaron, along with Dr Akiko Agishi. The mission of the organization is, "to share the dream of friendship and teamwork with the children of the world and to sow the seeds of that dream through an international baseball fair".

Well that's it for now, so keep pitching, hitting, fielding or just following the great game of baseball and I'll be back soon with another update

Yours in Baseball
Ian McDonald


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FOREWORD by Ryan Flynn -

As the sport of baseball grows and is strengthened across New Zealand, a number of important partnerships are also being strengthened with professional and amateur baseball organizations across the globe. One of the most important relationships that is paying real and tangible dividends in the form of opportunities for our players, coaches, administrators and umpires is the relationship with Major League Baseball (MLB), the premiere professional baseball league in the world.

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Time (yes, well overdue) for another update on Kiwi baseballers around the world and some a little closer to home. In this month's offering, I'll be taking a look at a new signing for the Pittsburgh Pirates, a Baltimore rookie's start to the year and how our college players ended up their seasons whilst also looking at a few players who are starting to make a name for themselves.

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Dear Members of New Zealand’s Baseball Community,

We are now at the business end of the season with national and club tournaments wrapped up and our representative teams beginning to step up their trainings and final selection processes for the upcoming overseas competitions in July and August.

In the meantime, we have had a number of important milestones, initiatives and additions to our national body that we believe will alter the trajectory of baseball in a positive direction for many years to come, including the following developments:

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Posted by on in Baseball New Zealand


My name is Huw Beynon, and I'm off on a baseballing adventure. In a bid to learn how we can best grow the game we love in New Zealand, I'm off to sunny San Diego.

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Posted by on in Baseball New Zealand

Well it’s 2014 and Spring Training games have started in the U.S. and the new Major League season is only 3 weeks away from getting underway when the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers meet in Sydney, but my focus in Kiwi’s Worldwide Blog, version 2014 is catching up with all the New Zealanders playing the great game of Baseball around the world.

In this month’s first offering for 2014, I’ll be taking a look at how our college players have started their seasons whilst also looking at a few players who are starting to make a name for themselves.

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Posted by on in Baseball New Zealand

Welcome to another Kiwi's Worldwide blog where I am aiming to keep you in touch with how New Zealand baseballers are going, playing the game all around the world. This month, I will be looking back on a visit to New Zealand by one of Major League Baseball's superstars, a few kiwi's playing in the Australian Baseball League and the rise of some of our best youth players.

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Tour Game 9 – Kansas City Royals Scout Team (California)
AZ Fall Classic Game 5
The coaches of both teams decided to send five batters to the plate every inning (even after 3 outs had been recorded) so that all the players would get more at-bats in front of the large number of college coaches and pro scouts that had gathered for this important showcase for both teams’ players.
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Tour Game 8 – Baseball Northwest Washington Navy (Seattle, WA)

AZ Fall Classic Game 4

10 innings played


Offensively, Vinny Harris collected the team’s first hit in the second inning, and Scott Drinkwater roped a double in the 4th.

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Tour Game 7 – SoCal Rays Scout Team (California)

AZ Fall Classic Game 3

The Junior Diamondblacks took on a California-based scout team from the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team.

Highlight players from the game included:

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Tour Game 6 – Dbacks BC (Canada)

AZ Fall Classic Game 2

NZL vs British Columbia Diamondbacks finished 4-4 after 7 innings played


Mackenzie Quarterman got the start in Game 2 of the doubleheader under lights in the Main Stadium at Peoria Sports Complex. He went 4 innings giving up only 2 runs.

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Tour Game 5 – Ontario Nationals (Canada)

AZ Fall Classic Game 1

Sean Akroyd started the first game of the day in the main stadium at Peoria Sports Complex . Akroyd started well, facing only four batters in the first inning and economically throwing only nine pitches. Over three innings of work Akroyd gave up three hits, two runs and walked two. Offensively, New Zealand got off to a quick start with Kohei Ueha walking and promptly stealing 2nd  and 3rd base. Dewald de Klerk hit a sacrifice fly to deep centerfield, scoring Ueha with NZL’s first run.

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All games are to be played 3 outs or 6 batters per inning and no scores are officially kept. All Games are 2 hours 30 minutes and teams will play as many innings as time allows. For the four days of the tournament against some of the top teams and players in North America, the goal will be to showcase 25 of New Zealand’s best ballplayers to hundreds of collegiate and professional coaches and scouts.

Our coaching staff will not be 'playing to win' these games, but instead working to ensure that each of the players receives significant game time over the four days and are seen by as many coaches and scouts as humanly possible--which is the entire intent of this tour.

Baseball New Zealand will post updates on the progress of individual players to the best of our ability, and eventually—after discussions with families—we’ll endeavour to provide updates on any collegiate and/or professional interest in our players, potential letters of intent and contracts, if the best case scenario eventuates for any of our ballplayers.

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New Zealand 18U Junior Diamondblacks open Arizona Tour with Two Wins against California and Arizona Teams

After a long day of travelling and finally getting into hotel rooms at 4:00am on Sunday morning, the team was up at 8:00am for breakfast and on their way to the field by 9:00am for an 11:00am game.

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Team New Zealand - Junior Diamondblacks Tour Schedule

2013 Arizona Fall Invitational

October 6


IBAC White (CA)

Padre #2

W 8-0



Nutty Buddy (AZ)

Padre #2

W 3-1


Warmup Games

October 7


Pilots Baseball (AZ)

Padre #4


October 8



Padre #4


 2013 Arizona Senior Fall Classic  http://azfallclassic.com/

October 9


Ontario Nationals (CAN)




D'Backs Team BC (CAN)



October 10


SC Rays Scout Team (CA)

Mariner #3


October 11



Padre #2


October 12


Kansas City Royals Scout (CA)

Padre #1


October 13


AZ Prowlers (AZ)

Padre #4



Additional Games

October 14


 Glendale Community College

Glendale CC


October 15



Padre #4




Padre #4


Return to NZL 16 October

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