It might be quintessentially American, but baseball is looming large down under, and Wairarapa is no exception.
Fledgling local baseball club Wairarapa Spitfires is riding the coat-tails of the game’s growing popularity in New Zealand.
Founded last year by Greytown-based Shane Fawdray and a group of like-minded parents, the club is still in its infancy, but growing fast. Helped with a recent grant of $5,000 from Trust House Charitable Trust, the club is purchasing more playing gear and uniforms for expansion of teams in the coming season. The grant will also go towards the costs of sending coaches to Auckland to attend a national three-day training clinic this month.
To date much of the club’s activities have involved recruiting and up-skilling young players, mainly in the South Wairarapa. This season they will enter a Under-13 team into a Wellington competition. The 2018-19 season will also see the establishment of a four team North/South Wairarapa competition including a team each from Lakeview Intermediate and Masterton Intermediate with Hadlow also interested in entering.
“That will be another 30-players on top of what we already have . . . so it’s starting to gain momentum,” Fawdray says.
“Obviously we really love baseball, but our main aim is to give kids another option to get off the couch or away from their gadgets and get playing a sport.” It’s also another way for kids to develop skills such as catching and throwing, he says. “
There are aspects of baseball that are really appealing, particularly to young people, and you only have to look around to see the number of kids wearing baseball caps and basketball singlets to realise American sports are already a big part of our culture.”
Baseball has a rapidly growing profile in New Zealand with strong playing numbers in the main centres. The recent establishment of the country’s first professional baseball team – Auckland Tuatara – is seen as a major boost for the sport here. The Tuatara’s are embarking on a nation-wide recruitment drive as they look to assemble their roster for their debut season in the Australian Baseball League this summer.
The Wairarapa Spitfires after squaring off with the Levin Hustle earlier this year.