Youth Nationals chance to discover future Black Sox

By James Perry

For the first time, the country's top U15 Boys softball players are competing at a combined national tournament. 

The country's next generation of Black Sox are playing ball. Softball New Zealand spokesperson Ricky Earley says it's great that boys from the North Shore can be playing against boys from Invercargill.

"It's fantastic, it makes them know it's a national tournament. And when you succeed here, you're succeeding on the national stage." 

This age group historically has had a North Island tournament, and a South Island tournament from which representative teams would be selected to play each other. Earley, who is helping select a group of 30 players for the Developing Sox program from this tournament, is excited to be able to see all the players in one place competing against each other.

The players are also happy to be playing against their peers from different parts of the country. Hemi Tulemau from Western Bay Of Plenty who played Marlborough and Manawatū on day one, and Canterbury on day two says, "it's a blast being up here."

It is expected age grade World Championships will begin in the coming years, involving Under 15, 18 and 23 grades. Softball New Zealand have begun preparing the players now for those tournaments.

"It gives these young athletes something to strive for, a fully fledged affiliated national team, you know we can wear the silver fern on your chest with pride, knowing you're the best in your country," Earley says.

Tulemau says, "It gives all of us young ones a chance to represent our country. Yeah, it would be awesome if I make that team."

Black Sox legend Chubb Tangaroa, who is coaching the Hawkes Bay side this weekend, believes this is the right pathway to make sure the 7 time World Champion Black Sox stay at the top. He is excited by the talent on display already this weekend. "But I'm very mindful too the rest of the world are doing the same thing," he says.  

A 30 strong squad will be named at the end of this weekend. They will attend a camp later in the year in preparation for a tour of Australia in October.

While the boys are running around Prince Edward Park in Papakura, the Under 15 girls are competing in Palmerston North.

The Under 18s tournaments are next weekend, the men in Christchurch, and ladies in Hamilton.

Wellington won the U23 men's tournament last weekend, while Auckland were crowned women's champions last weekend at Lower Hutt's Fraser Park.