Patrick Shannon hopes the upcoming ISF World Softball Championships will not only give the Black Sox another world title, but also the recognition they deserve.
For he remembers a time when they had it.
The Black Sox were at Ridgeview Primary School in Paremoremo on Monday as part of a publicity drive before the tournament at Albany's Rosedale Park in March.
Catcher Shannon has been a member since 1995. Since then the Black Sox have won three world titles.
But they did not win the last, beaten by Australia in the final in Canada in 2009.
So there will be some unfinished business at the tournament.
The Black Sox won three of their five world titles consecutively before the loss.
Despite the team's continued success, the sport has slipped out of the public eye in New Zealand. It is seldom televised anymore, and the emergence of baseball has threatened softball too.
The World Championships may go some way to changing that.
Shannon recalls a time even before he played when softball had a higher profile.
"Back in the 80s it was massive. The players were household names with the likes of Eddie Kolhase and Mark Sorenson," he says.
"Now we are better known overseas than at home."
Kolhase is the Black Sox coach, and Sorenson the tournament's ambassador.
Shannon was the latter's understudy but is now a senior team member in his own right. He is recognised as one of the world's best catchers.
He plays for the Waitakere Bears but spends considerable time in the United States, plus Canada, Japan and even Botswana.
In his 12th United States season he plays professionally for the New York Gremlins, the same club as Black Sox captain Rhys Casley.
The ISF Men's World Softball Championships are at Rosedale Park in Albany from March 1 to 10.
Go to softball2013.com for more information.
- North Harbour News
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