NZ baseballers head to world stage
Fri, 21 Sep 2012 6:47p.m.
By Greg Pearson
New Zealand’s best baseballers are about to take on the world when the DiamondBlacks take part in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers for the first time.
And helping guide them will be a Kiwi who's spent 27 years mixing with the world's best.
Andy Skeels has made a living as a player and manager for such names as the Dodgers, Yankees and Giants.
Now he's back to manage New Zealand's first team in the World Baseball Classic, and believes it's the perfect opportunity for others to follow in his footsteps.
“I’m really excited about what this gives this country as a foundation and what it can lead to,” he says. “Baseball has taken me all over the globe and given me opportunities I could never have imagined and I think the same is true for this tournament and I think it's going to happen for a lot of these kids.”
Now the manager for the San Francisco Giants minor league team, Skeels was the first New Zealand born player drafted by a major league team and has the baseball cards to prove it.
Although he never cracked the big time, the latest crop of young talent are keen to learn from his experiences.
Toronto Bluejays prospect Daniel Devonshire says Skeels has a lot of knowledge.
“It's nice to be around guys who have been there, done that, know what you've gone through and what you're going to be going through. To be able to relate to them is huge, especially coming from New Zealand there's not many people you can relate to.”
Baseball New Zealand chief executive Ryan Flynn says an opportunity to play on the world's stage should create even more opportunities.
“Truly this is the moment where putting on the black jersey for a baseball player is like putting on the All Black jersey for a young rugby player. This is the moment we think the world will take notice that we're better than anyone would've thought a few years ago. This is the arrival moment, this is the tipping point for the sport.”
And hopefully some young prospects will be sent Skeels' way.
“I tell you what, that would be for me a great thing to have one of these kids I manage here, to wind up managing them for the San Francisco Giants, that would be a real thrill,” Skeels says.
Skeels gets his first look at New Zealand’s talent at open try-outs this weekend.
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