(L to R) Jason Matthews, Kyle Glogoski, Elliot Johnstone & Correze Nepia
Two Māori New Zealand baseball players are on the Gold Coast in Australia for a month-long Major League Baseball academy, an opportunity that could lead to a professional career in the sport.
New Zealand Diamondblacks players Jason Matthews and Correze Nepia will experience four weeks of intense coaching, training and playing alongside the best young players in Australia and the wider region.
Matthews and Nepia will join Kyle Glogoski and Elliot Johnstone.
Last year, Jason Matthews (Ngā Puhi) went to the Netherlands to attend the European Major League Baseball Academy. He was also recently offered a scholarship at Iowa's South Eastern Community College, one of the top baseball universities in the USA.
The academy participants have been split into two teams for the month, and Glogoski will be joined by Jason Matthews who, following the month in Australia, is heading straight to Southeastern Community College in Iowa—while Johnstone and Nepia will take the field as teammates in multiple exhibitions against Glogoski and Matthews.
Correze Nepia, son of former Blues and Crusaders rugby prop Kevin Nepia, will participate in his first ever academy. Kevin also plays social baseball for the Howick-Pakuranga club for which he is president.
Correze was a member of the New Zealand Under-18 team which played in the Oceania U18 Championships in Auckland last year. His younger brother Keaton is a promising baseballer, too, having represented his country in the 2014 New Zealand Ripken All Star team.
The number of baseballers in New Zealand continues to rise. This year there are well over a dozen young Kiwis either playing professional or college baseball in addition to the four players heading to the Gold Coast.
Baseball New Zealand CEO Ryan Flynn says there are very few sports in New Zealand who can provide players with opportunities like this.
“These kids have worked really, really hard to get chances like this and the likes of Kyle, Elliot, Correze and Jason have put in the training time to prove to us that they have the ability to go further in the game.
Many sports work to keep their best players in the country, whereas in a sport such as ours, for young men to take the next step and make a real go of going to college or play professional ball, they currently must leave our shores to do so. And we’re proud of how many of our young men are doing exactly that.”