WBC Field of Dreams Awaits
- Published on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 10:00
- Written by Melissa Couto
This November, the young ball player will have the chance to travel to his own field of dreams in Taipei where he could represent New Zealand in its first ever attempt to qualify for the World Baseball Classic.
"I see the WBC as a great opportunity," Bishop said after a grueling training session at the Red Sox spring facility in Fort Myers, Florida earlier this month. "It's a huge deal. I will be representing my country, my family, my friends, and myself in a sport I love and that's just huge for me to be able to do that."
Historically, players who have competed in the two previous WBCs have further enhanced their opportunities in baseball following the widely watched tournament. Bishop hopes that having more eyes on him will benefit his future career as well.
"Personally, playing in the WBC against world ranked players and being seen playing against them will be good for me," the 18-year-old mused. "You get looked at by a lot of people and they will be able to see how I perform at a high level of baseball."
Bishop also acknowledged what the WBC will do for the sport itself in his native land.
"For New Zealand it is a great way to get globally known with baseball and it will show New Zealanders a pathway they can take with the sport," Bishop asserted.
Before heading to Spring Training in early March, the Wellington native spent time in Auckland, working with the Junior Diamondblacks as they prepared for a Baseball World Cup qualifying tournament in Guam. For the Red Sox catching prospect, this was a sublime experience.
"I trained with them every day that I was around," Bishop said of his time with the young Kiwi athletes. "It was good to see the up and coming players in New Zealand. It's great to see baseball finally thrive there."
After spending most of his life as a softball player, Bishop is now demonstrating that grander opportunities may await those who choose baseball as their diamond sport.
Overlooking the brand new training facilities at JetBlue Park, the former softball star spoke of the disconnect existing in New Zealand between his old sport and his new one.
"I felt torn between them as I was getting signed," he said. "I thought about what other softballers would do if they were in my position. I even thought, you know, maybe people would think I betrayed softball by signing with the Red Sox.
"I didn't know how the veteran softball players would look at me if I did sign, whether they would be disappointed if I took the contract or what," he continued. "A lot was going on in my head but my family and my girlfriend did really well at supporting me and helping me realize that it was my decision. In the end I had to do what I felt was right for me."
Alex Carter, the NZ Girls Softball Development Team coach in New Zealand who has worked with Bishop in the past, presented his personal opinion on the opportunities awaiting young Kiwi athletes in baseball.
"New Zealand softball players need to be careful that they don't cut off what is known for an unknown," Carter said last month. "I think players and their parents see what baseball is offering - contracts with pro clubs, scholarships to colleges - and they put all their energy into making this player good enough to become a professional, yet the funnel of talent gets very small at the top."
Those involved with Baseball New Zealand have their own counter arguments to this sentiment, but CEO Ryan Flynn simply said it best last week: "We believe in our players".
Training alongside hundreds of other Red Sox prospects this spring, Bishop has remained confident in a competitive environment, and is "showing daily improvements," according to his catching coach in Fort Myers, Chad Epperson.
Working hard to claim a spot on a minor league team for the season, the young Maori has quickly realized that at this level, baseball is much more than a game.
"If you want to get something out of baseball, you have to put everything into it - absolutely everything," he admitted. "You can't really just go and expect to get somewhere without working hard."
So far, the rewards, including being signed by one of the most storied franchises in Major League Baseball, getting the chance to refine his skills at the prestigious MLB Australian Academy Program last season, and now, preparing to play in November's international baseball tournament, have been numerous.
"It's a great honour to be able to play for your country on a world stage competition," Bishop said as a smile spread across his face. "I'm really excited about it."
By Melissa Couto |
Photo: Alexis Brudnicki
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.