SYDNEY, 31 July - It’s a monumental year for Baseball New Zealand and, for three former Australian Baseball Leaguers, their chance to be the small but important components that will make 2012 a success.
All three agree that their experience with the Australian Baseball League has given them the confidence
Currently based on separate continents, Tim Auty, Daniel Lamb-Hunt and Boss Moanaroa will unite on their home turf in September, to prove themselves worthy of a shot at the World Baseball Classic.
This is the first time the nation has been invited to qualify for the WBC, and to these men, it's an honour.
Sydney-bred Tim Auty’s shot at the white and black jersey is in part to prove his development to himself and his New Zealand relatives “My dad was born there, so this would mean a lot to his side of the family”.
Despite carving out a successful career in construction management, baseball will always be a constant for the right-handed slugger, who already has built a strong playing portfolio at 26 years of age.
“I’ve been playing baseball for 20 years. I started when I was five, playing for my local team Thornleigh; I played with all my school friends from the area which essentially was the reason why I started.” Over his 14 year career, Auty represented NSW from juniors to seniors, twice for Australia.
Auty was signed twice in the minor league system, the first in 2003 with the Seattle Mariners and in 2006 with the Philadelphia Phillies. In 2007, Auty joined the Evansville Otters in an independent league.
Auty joined the Sydney Blue Sox in the inaugural season of the Australian Baseball League. Unfortunately, Auty concluded with disappointing results, and many of his supporters commented they weren’t indicative of his true potential.
His 2011 finish gave Auty the motivation to prove his worth; the WBC tryouts are the perfect opportunity.
“I'm just focusing on getting my body ready for the qualifiers. I took a summer season off last year for work and university, so getting back into baseball shape is my number one priority” said Auty, whose participation in winter team Quakers Hill is assisting his transformation.
“There are quite a few guys that have been teammates of mine before so I would have to say the Moanaroa brothers, Richard Olsen, Ricki Piewai.” Auty said of looking forward to being reunited with the boys in September.
“I am also looking forward to see some of the other baseball talent that New Zealand has to offer. This is an exciting time for baseball, especially in New Zealand.”
Boss Moanaroa, who just turned 21, is looking forward to seeing Auty and the other boys he grew up in this competition with, espesically his brother Moko. Born in Belmont, NSW, Moanaroa is spending the season in South Carolina, USA, manning first base for the Red Sox-affiliated Greenville Drive.
Moanaroa’s first team was the Toronto Tigers which he joined at age 9, with the support his parents. His father hails from Ngaruawahia, NZ and his mother was born in nearby Hamilton.
Now, with his family thousands of miles away, Moanaroa relies on the support of his team. “I’m working on my whole game right with the coaching staff on my team, they are really helpful and I’ve been improving a lot as the season goes on.”
“My fitness right now is good as I’m in season and post-season I’ll have a little time off, then I’ll get ready for the WBC qualifiers” said the determined Kiwi, who cites Albert Pujols as his favourite MLB player.
“I’m really proud of getting a chance at the qualifiers; it will show that New Zealand has some good players. It’s not my birth country but it will mean a lot to my whole family in Australia and New Zealand”.
Born and bred in Mt Albert, Auckland, Daniel Lamb-Hunt’s transition from softball to baseball began as an adult and despite his late start, he received some well-earned breaks. “I hadn’t touched a baseball before being signed,” said the 25-year-old slugger who was secured by the Atlanta Braves from 2005-2007.
Finishing his second season with the Australian Baseball League’s Brisbane Bandits, Lamb-Hunt flew to Germany for his third stint in the European Northern League, this time with the Bonn Capitals.
Right now, Lamb-Hunt is mid-season and is gaining some experience from fellow teammate Bradley Robert-Huber, who spent time with the New York Mets. “I’m working with him daily to build on a consistent swing...It’s been a tough ride (over here) but I feel I’ll be good for the playoffs and then the qualifiers.”
“I’m really working on my outfield skills, I’ve been playing all season out in left for my team, getting good at taking routes and tracking the ball and my arm is getting a lot stronger every week I’m out there.” Off the field, Lamb-Hunt is in the gym 3-4 times a week, focusing on leg work and trimming down slightly “I’m focusing on gaining strength and speed coming up to the latter end of the year.”
Like Auty, Lamb-Hunt is ready to add another highlight to his playing portfolio. “I’ve represented New Zealand before with junior softball teams and it’s a great feeling, but to do it at this level will be unreal.”
“Hopefully all goes well and I’ll be there, to represent my family, my friends, and my country on the world stage. What an honour it would be”.