Pitching coach Riki Paewai says baseball is a growing trend in New Zealand sport. The NZ U15 grade team departs for the World Champs in Japan later this week, but despite being labelled the underdog team, he says the boys have the potential to make a mark on the world stage.
The playing ground of New Zealand's future baseball stars.
“This age group is going to be the turning point for baseball in New Zealand and this group of kids we've got behind us, they're awesome. I mean, we don't have many to choose from but to be able to choose a team like this at the calibre that they're at, it's been a real pleasure,” said Paewai.
NZ representative Huriwaka Repia says, “I’m really pumped to get on the field representing NZ.”
His brother and fellow teammate Tukuteihu Repia says, “Yeah you know, just being in a national team, I was really excited but now to be going up against the world.”
A family affair for Tukuteihu and Huriwaka, the teams most experienced players, both have been competing in international tournaments from a young age. However, this will be their first time playing together.
Tukuteihu says, “Playing with my brother makes the trip like 100 times easier, he always gets me organised and makes sure that I put in the hard work on the field and if I'm slacking off he'll let me know.”
The brother and their teammates will face tough competition at the prestigious baseball event, such as the USA, Mexico and Venezuela. However, they believe being the underdogs will be their advantage.
Paewai says, “One boy on the team, he's Samoan and he's only played under a year of baseball and he's just shot right up there and he's going to be one of our batter- pitchers for the tournament so it speaks volumes for NZ and their ability athletically. You can find a kid anywhere and he's more than likely going to compete in any sport so it's definitely a big bonus.”
The boys jet off to Japan at the end of the week for the tournament that kicks off at the end of the month.