Like a Boss, Moanaroa working hard
- Published on Sunday, 20 May 2012 08:26
- Written by Melissa Couto
Boss Moanaroa is not one of them.
Though he was born and raised in Australia, the Sydney Blue Sox infielder and Boston Red Sox prospect will likely get the chance to represent New Zealand at the World Baseball Classic qualifier in Taiwan this November.
Moanaroa's Maori parents are to thank for this.
"They were both born in New Zealand," he said of his father and mother earlier this year at JetBlue Park, the spring training facility of the Boston Red Sox in Florida. "Playing for their country, and I do think of it as my country as well, would be really fun. It would mean a lot to my parents."
The 20-year-old was taught from a young age to always respect his roots, and he is grateful to have had that kind of upbringing.
"When I was young, my grandparents really drummed into my head the idea that it's important to know where you come from and to know your elders," Moanaroa said. "I still visit New Zealand once a year to see the family, to see how they're doing and catch up.
"Now that I have a chance to represent New Zealand in baseball, it's such a privilege," the infielder continued. "They've never had qualifiers for the WBC, so to be a part of the first team to go over and play competitively is really important to me and to my parents as well."
In fact, Moanaroa wouldn't be playing baseball today if it wasn't for the influence of his family. As a teenager, the Red Sox prospect thought of quitting the game altogether to focus on BMX racing when his older brother, Moko, who also played in the Red Sox organization, convinced him not to.
"I was sixth in the world in my age group a few years ago [in BMX racing], but I stuck with baseball because Moko told me there's more opportunity here, more money," he said, gleefully adding, "I'm not worried about the money though. I play for fun."
Moanaroa has brought his Maori heritage with him on his baseball journey across the Pacific Ocean. During a rain delay with the Red Sox affiliated Lowell Spinners last July, the young ball player performed the Haka for fans alongside Moko and their father, Joe.
"My whole family taught Moko and I how to do the Haka at a very young age, and it was really fun to do it in front of the fans," Moanaroa said of his performance.
Earlier this year, the Newcastle native traveled back to his ancestors' country, taking part in MLB's Training with the Pros program. Through this experience, Moanaroa gained further appreciation for the growth of baseball in New Zealand.
"It was really good to see how baseball is developing over there," Moanaroa said of his most recent visit to New Zealand. "Just to see how many different kids came to participate in it was really an eye-opener for me.
"Rugby is really big there. It's all they really play, so to see how they are supporting baseball is great," he added. "The [Training with the Pros] program really just shows them that people from New Zealand can make it in different sports."
Another reason for Moanaroa's excitement for New Zealand's baseball future has to do with the two Kiwi players of softball backgrounds who have recently signed minor league contracts with MLB teams.
"They play softball over there [in New Zealand], so to see different Maori kids come over to play baseball in the U.S. really makes me happy." Moanaroa said.
One of these Maori ball players was his spring training roommate this year, Te Wera Bishop, who signed with the Red Sox last February and will be playing in the Gulf Coast League in Florida starting next month.
Although he's only two years older than Bishop, Moanaroa developed somewhat of a mentoring relationship with the young New Zealander, a natural role for the older player, according to some.
"Boss shows qualities of becoming a leader and has earned the respect of his teammates," said Kevin Boles, the manager of the Sydney Blue Sox. "He had a vocal presence in our clubhouse last season and he is a very intelligent, hard-working, solid teammate."
Moanaroa certainly has a lot to offer New Zealand's national baseball team.
With the 2010-2011 Blue Sox, he batted .273, recording 36 hits and 22 RBI in 132 at-bats. For the Lowell Spinners last season, he posted a .241 average, with 49 hits and 31 RBI in 203 at-bats.
This season, Moanaroa is playing first base for the Greenville Drive, the Red Sox High-A affiliate in South Carolina. In 34 games so far, he is batting .264 with 29 hits and 17 RBI.
Aside from an effective swing, the young Aussie can also contribute to the growth of baseball in New Zealand by providing solid advice for the nation's future stars.
"Young ball players there need to really keep at it," he said following a series of strenuous conditioning exercises in the Florida sun. "If they really want it, they can always get it. They just have to work very hard and things will take care of themselves."
By Melissa Couto |
Melissa Couto is a budding sports writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @throwinsmoke
This story was not subject to the approval of Baseball New Zealand or its affiliates.