Baseball New Zealand
by Sean Callahan 25 May 2007
Although Baseball is considered the national sport of the United States, there are now over 100 countries playing the Olympic Sport worldwide, with more than 12 million participants.
Auckland, New Zealand was host to one of the first baseball games played in the Southern Hemisphere. On Dec 10th, 1888 a team of All-Stars, led by promoter Albert Spalding, began a world tour with their first games played in Hawaii and New Zealand before heading to Australia, Ceylon, Egypt and eventually England. The first game was played at the Auckland Domain between the Chicago Club and a team of US All-Stars. During the week that followed local cricket players and other interested locals were included in further competitions with the touring teams.
Baseball has existed at various times throughout the country since that first game in 1888. But it wasn’t until 1989 that a formal New Zealand Baseball Association was formed which consisted of mainly senior players from the Auckland area. In 1995, youth baseball was introduced to Auckland and has been competing during the summer months since then.
In 2003, the Canterbury Baseball Club was formed in Christchurch fielding both youth and senior teams. During January 2004 the first Canterbury-Auckland tournament was held and in January 2006 a National Championship was held between the two regions to crown champions at all age grades.
With the development of youth Baseball, or Little League, New Zealand now sends teams overseas on a regular basis in the Little League, AA, AAA and senior age grades. The New Zealand senior team plays in the Australian Provincial Championships, which they hosted in 2006.
In recent years, New Zealand has watched players leave for post secondary education in the United States where they pursue baseball along with their studies. In 2006, after three years in college and university, Scott Campbell was drafted out of Gonzaga University by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 10th round of the Major League Baseball free agent draft. In the 2006 season, he played for the short-season A Auburn Doubledays, in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, where he was named MVP.
Campbell was the first New Zealander drafted into professional baseball, but other Kiwis have signed free-agent contracts and played professionally. Most notably of this group to date was Travis Wilson who spent eight years as a professional in the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds minor league organizations. A more recent signee was Daniel Lamb-Hunt who signed with the Atlanta Braves in 2005.
In the past, New Zealand Baseball sent its most promising 16-18 year olds to the Major League Baseball Australian Academy Program in Gold Coast, Australia. At the academy players would compete with many of the best youth baseball players in the region. A majority of the players attending this academy went on to play baseball in US colleges and universities or signed contracts with MLB clubs.
Beginning in 2005, New Zealand became host to a regional training center organized by the Baseball Confederation of Oceania. This academy hosts players from all baseball federations in the Oceania region for a 10 day period over the summer.
New Zealand Baseball has already been approached to start baseball in the Whangarei and Wellington regions and plans are underway to develop Baseball throughout the country.
Editor: Greg Wolfe