Kiwis Worldwide: August 2013 Update
Time for another update on my Kiwis 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.
In this month’s offering, I’ll be taking a closer look at one of our kiwi’s making his way as a rookie and another young kiwi who has been granted a fantastic opportunity with a scholarship for junior college in the US, plus a couple of Kiwis in Canada who have helped their teams make their respective play-off series.
In the Gulf Coast rookie league, Pita Rona is going about his business for the Baltimore Orioles organisation in his first season as a professional baseball player. I recently caught up with Pita and firstly asked him “What has been the most difficult facet of the game of baseball that has been hardest to grasp, having previously played softball”:
PR: The transition from hitting a softball to a baseball in general, but will most definitely be the change of my swing and to hitting off speed pitches.
IM: What have the Orioles coaches been focusing on to grow your knowledge and grasp of the game?
PR: Orioles coaching staff have been teaching me the basics of baseball in all aspects like fielding, base running, hitting and also the mental aspect.
IM: Have you got much feedback on your game?
PR: I believe I have made improvements. I mean I went from not even seeing the ball to now making contact and I'm seeing it a whole lot better now.
IM: Personally how you made the adjustment to being so far away from family and friends?
PR: Well been away from home is something I've been doing for a few years now with all my traveling. So it doesn't take a huge toll on me but I do still miss my family!
IM: Have you enjoyed the experience so far and do you think you have the ability to go all the way to the majors?
PR: I have enjoyed it, I enjoy the challenge of being "the softball kid" when I play and I lot know now. And I guess time will tell with my progress over the years but I'm definitely considering it!
Pita and I will catch up again soon, so I’ll keep you up to date with his progress.
In Canada, Diamondblacks pitchers Andrew Marck and Jamie Wilson have both lead their respective teams into the play-offs.
Andrew’s London Majors team currently lead the Burlington Bandits 3 nil in the best of seven game quarter final series after he won game 1 in style. Marck pitched 8.2 innings giving up 2 runs on 6 hits while striking out 7 in the Majors 6-2 win. In the other 2 games last weekend, the Majors won 6-2 in game 2 and a narrow 5-4 win in game 3 to leave them just 1 win away from progressing to the next round. During the regular season, Andrew finished with a 3-2 record in the Intercounty Baseball League and an ERA of 4.71, the 6th best in a league that “eats pitchers for breakfast”. - STORY
Not such great news for Jamie’s Okotoks Dawgs in the WMBL play-offs though, after beating the Lethbridge Bulls 3 games to 1 in the first round of the play offs, the Dawgs went down in 3 games to the Medicine Hat Mavericks to finish their season. Wilson did a good job on the mound during the play-offs, pitching 6.1 innings of relief over 4 games, picking up a win while posting an ERA of 2.84. During the regular season, Jamie pitched in 13 games, starting 3 and posting a 2-1 record, with an ERA of 4.17.
Daniel Lamb-Hunt continues some great form for his Bonn Capitals in the German Bundesliga North. After playing in 20 games, Daniel is hitting .419 with 6 home runs and 28 RBI leading the team in the batting stats and the Capitals sit just 1 game behind division leaders Sollingen Alligators with a 22-6 record.
Lamb-Hunt will also compete in the All-Star Home Run Derby on August 18. - STORY
5 young Kiwi baseballers have recently shared the experience of a lifetime after they attended MLB Academy camps in Germany and Australia. Aucklanders Sam Harvey and Ben Thompson have spent the last 2 weeks in Regensburg (near Munich) under the tutelage of Hall of Famer Barry Larkin and former MLB All Stars Bruce Hurst and Dale Murphy. Since 2005, 298 players have gone through the academy with 58 inductees being signed to professional MLB contracts, including current players Alex Liddi of the Baltimore Orioles and the first German to play at major league level, Donald Lutz with the Cincinnati Reds.
Fellow Junior Diamodblacks Connor Peden, Vinnie Harris and Quinten Niu joined Baseball NZ Development Officer Daniel Tan at this year’s MLB Academy on the Gold Coast. Daniel says Connor, Vinnie, Quinten, and I had an invaluable experience during our three week stay at the academy. He said the program consisted of individual and team defence to start the day, then on to batting practice, before playing a game each afternoon, six days a week. The boys all made vast improvements to their skills and knowledge of the game, and I was lucky enough to hone my skills as the third base coach of one of the teams. All in all a very rewarding trip, for all of us.
Meanwhile, another up and coming pair have been spending the last few months with the Australian Baseball League side Perth Heat in their academy. Wellington based Iranui Holthausen has been there since April and Academy Head Steve Fish says the teenager is making some really good progress with his game and so far has played in over 30 games, picking up over 100 at bats.
Another Kiwi who has been part of the Perth Academy is West Aucklander Daniel Bradley. I caught up with Daniel recently as he has just received some great news in picking up a scholarship to attend North Iowa Area Community College in the States. I started by asking Daniel “What is your baseball pathway so far?”:
DB: I started playing tee ball when I was 5 and progressed onto softball and played that until I was 16. I had always wanted to play baseball and one day my mum saw an ad for West City Baseball Club in my school newsletter so my dad took me down to the next training. That season I played both baseball and softball and the following season I dropped softball and focused solely on my baseball.
IM: What was it like playing for your country at the WBC Qualifiers?
DB: Playing for New Zealand at the WBC Qualifiers was the most amazing experience of my life. I didn't get much playing time but just being surrounded by so many talented and experienced players and world class coaches was such a privilege. Also, I got to experience what the life of a professional baseball player can be like, which just added to my desire to play professional baseball.
IM: You've now spent quite a bit of time with the Perth academy, how has this helped your game?
DB: Being a part of the baseball community on Perth has had a huge influence on my baseball development, I've learnt so much from so many different people.
IM: How did NIACC first learn about you?
DB: NIACC got in touch with me through Steve Fish, the manager of the Perth Heat.
IM: Who has been the greatest influence on your baseball game so far?
DB: There is no one person who has had the greatest influence on my game so far, you just try to learn as much as you can from everyone you train with, and take the parts the help and leave the parts that don't work for you.
IM: What are your long term goals in the sport?
DB: I only have one long term goal and that is to play Major League Baseball for as long as I can.
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