Batter UP!

Luke Devine, 12, winds up for a great pitch. Photo: Chris Callinan.

It’s the bottom of the inning and the home team are up to bat. There are two outs, three players on base and the player up to bat has two strikes.

The pitcher winds up and sails the ball over the home plate. “Strike Three! You’re OUT!” yells the umpire.

The team in the outfield huddle around the pitcher and give each other high fives for a close win. Nearby, fans line up for American hot dogs and ice cold drinks.

Normally you would expect to see this scene in a Hollywood movie or on a visit to America. But if you head down to Papamoa’s Gordon Spratt Reserve on a Saturday morning, you will see the great sport of baseball in action.

Tauranga City Baseball president Shane Woolley says baseball is one of the fastest growing sports in New Zealand with several baseball clubs starting to form around the country.

And Tauranga warming to the sport too.

“Tauranga City Baseball started in 2015 with four very passionate baseball-loving committee members and about 40 players,” says Shane.

“Since then it has quickly grown. There are now 70 players and a committee of 11.

“In addition to this, with the migration of people from Auckland, we’ve gained very experienced individuals who’ve previously coached or played for NZ teams and who umpire at international levels.”

Shane says baseball is a great family sport that all ages can play.

“Registrations are currently open for kids aged five to 15 as well as anyone interested in playing in an adult social league.

“You don’t need to have played baseball before and first-time players are encouraged to come and give it a go.”

The season officially kicks off tomorrow, October 29, for all grades. TCB has two Kiwball teams for those aged four-nine and three Under-14 squads playing locally, with out-of-town teams coming to town to challenge them.

“Currently, our teams are playing at a field at Gordon Spratt Reserve in Papamoa and we hope to have a permanent backstop structure secured by early next year,” says Shane.

“And what they get out of playing is teamwork, confidence every time they make a play, and unlike cricket where you get three chances to hit a pitch and if you get out you are out for the rest of the game, kids get to bat several times during a baseball game.”

As the club grows, Shane hopes to see skilled players in the Bay of Plenty region compete in national tournaments and be given the opportunity to travel overseas to places like Australia and the United States “and even the 2020 Olympics in Japan”.

If you’re interested in registering a player contact Tauranga City Baseball at Taurangacitybaseball@gmail.com or search ‘Tauranga City Baseball’ Facebook.