WBC Qualifiers: The Journey Begins
- Published on Wednesday, 11 April 2012 23:26
- Written by Ben Stanley
Baseball New Zealand have rounded first base in their quest for national sporting recognition with the naming of their qualifying pool for the World Baseball Classic (WBC) later this year.
Yet despite the `Diamondblacks' being only a handful of victories away from a spot in the Classic's finals, the sport's top international tournament; their campaign this year will likely not receive any funding from Sport New Zealand.
A High Performance Sport New Zealand spokesperson told the Fairfax Media that "unfortunately" Baseball New Zealand's qualification campaign doesn't meet criteria under the high performance investment strategy, which only targets sports that can win events that are important to New Zealanders.
Their only chance to gain funding through Sport New Zealand will come if they apply during the contestable round of funding in August, the spokesperson said. Baseball New Zealand currently receives no funding from the organisation.
New Zealand, the only unranked team in the world to feature in qualification, will play Chinese Taipei, the Philippines and Thailand in a four-team group at XinZhuang Stadium in Taipei between November 15 and 18.
The winner of the group will then qualify for the tournament finals, which are due to be held in Japan next year, which will feature heavyweight nations such as the United States, Japan and Cuba.
Baseball New Zealand chief executive Ryan Flynn, who estimates the campaign to play in Chinese Taipei to cost upwards of $100,000, described the country's participation in the tournament qualifiers as "a watershed moment" for the sport in New Zealand.
"We're already a bit of a Cinderella team in the dance, but depending how we do we could be even more of a Cinderella story," he said.
While New Zealand will fancy its chances against Thailand and the Philippines in the qualifying games, Taiwan will be the heavyweights of the group.
The Chinese Taipei squad could possibly feature the likes of Major League star Chien-Ming Wang (a pitcher for Washington Nationals), Hong-Chih Kuo (former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher) and Chin-lung Hu (Cleveland Indians minor league shortstop).
Recently retired Toronto Blue Jays infielder Scott Campbell, catcher Te Wera Bishop and infielder Boss Moanaroa (who both play in the Boston Red Sox organisation), and Brisbane Bandits closer Andrew Marck are all likely to feature for New Zealand.
Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Maronde, who was raised in New Zealand, has also expressed interest in playing for the Kiwi side.
Flynn said Baseball New Zealand, alongside Major League Baseball, are conducting a search for New Zealand-related players to play for the team. He added that trials will be held in the next few months for people to make the team.