The Auckland Tuatara's inaugural season came to an end last night in Melbourne, claiming their first series win of the year, against the Melbourne Aces. And their future looks bright.
Their 8-4 victory in the final game of the 4 game series, and of their inaugural season, secured them a 3-1 series victory, in what was technically a home series. Zach Clark hit a 2 run bomb in the second innings, before Taylor Synder's 3 run home run shot in the 4th to put the Tuatara beyond reach.
One of the many positives to come from the launch of professional baseball has been the chance for some of the country's younger players to learn from and train with some players who have Major League experience in America, as well as the big leagues in Asia. Tukuteihu Repia and his brother Huriwaka were two such players. "I mean it's huge for us, even for the little bro. Getting out there, seeing what it's all about, seeing what the professional side is," 17 year old Tukuteihu says, the experience "just opens my eyes, it just opens up the future. Get's me motivated, and ready to do all these things."
A decade ago, there were an estimated 200 baseball players a decade ago, and the number is believed to have grown to more than 8000 this year. Auckland Tuatara General Manager and Baseball NZ Ceo Ryan Flynn is happy to see that growth, and that there have been a number of New Zealand players who have found themselves in the Tuatara set up already, "I'm pleased that the Beau Bishop's, and Max Brown's, Kyle Glogoski's and Jimmy Boyce's stood up and said they can play with anybody in the world," Flynn says. Bishop, who signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox as a 17 year old, hit his first home run of the season on Friday that secured one of their 3 victories over the weekend, and Jimmy Boyce threw more than 100 pitches in the final game on Saturday.
Huriwaka Repia, who plays catcher says the chance to watch the likes of Bishop catch has allowed him to see what he needs to work on to improve his game. He also got to watch, and catch pitchers with Major League Baseball experience, such as Josh Colmenter, Scott Richmond, and Kiwi Kyle Glogoski, who is currently part of the Philadelphia Phillies organisation. Huriwaka says, "it really motivated me. And to spend [time] with all those players is just, yeah just really good."
Flynn says that kind of development opportunity for young baseballers is invaluable, "I don't think you can put a price tag on that," he said, "that's what the Australians have had for years and years and years," he added.
The young players not only improve their skills on the diamond but got insights into life as professional athletes. One thing outfielder Dominic Elliott says he learned was "how committed you'd have to be and definitely putting in the time, in your spare time to find better ways and increase your skills.
Flynn hopes to see future Tuatara squads have more NZ players involved, "it's a winter league, so you're always going to have more import players than other leagues," he says. "But your core is your Kiwis. That's why we're doing this," he continues, "the only reason why we have professional baseball here is to develop our kids and provide more pathways, so they can dream the bigger dream."