Raemaki keen to take it to next level

TIM BARTON
Last updated 08:50 21/11/2012
Jerome Raemaki
JOHN NICHOLSON/Fairfax NZ
"Anything with a ball - that's me," Jerome Raemaki says.

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Softballer Jerome Raemaki hopes to take on the world again soon.

The Rongotai College pupil returned to New Zealand last week from the junior world softball championship in Argentina and will learn shortly whether he will take part in the senior world championship in March.

The New Zealand team for the 2013 world championships, to be played on home turf at Auckland, will be named after the national fastpitch championship early next month.

Raemaki has been a Black Sox representative in 2011 and 2012 and should be right in the mix for the world championship team.

The 18-year-old, who was named the New Zealand emerging player of the year in September, began swinging a baseball bat as a pre-schooler and has dreamt of representing the Black Sox at the world championship since childhood.

"That has always been the goal and everything else has been a stepping stone. It was my ultimate dream as a kid," he said.

The prospect of playing at home - something that has happened only twice previously - adds to the allure of the 2013 championship.

"To play in the world championships at home - it doesn't get any better," Raemaki said.

"Everyone will want to make the most of it.

"But there would also be a bit of added pressure, as we haven't lost a world series at home."

The previous world championships in New Zealand were in Hutt Valley in 1976 and Christchurch in 2004.

But Raemaki is aware that although he might only be weeks away from reaching his goal, his place in the side is not a given.

"Everybody will have the same goal. I might make it or I might not. Anything could happen, but hopefully there will be a good outcome."

Raemaki, who is a hard marker of his own game, captained the Junior Black Sox in Argentina and was not satisfied with either the team's fifth placing or his own form.

"We went there with the goal of winning the tournament and that was a realistic target. I thought we had the team to do it.

"But the other teams were better than us on the day."

The Junior Black Sox lost three games at the world championship, two against Australia and one against the United States, and in each case the loss was by a single run.

"There's a feeling of only getting one shot at it [the world championship] and it's gone now," Raemaki said.

"That is hard. You are playing against the best of the best and luck does come into it but I think we needed to gel a bit more.

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"I felt my game was a little off, though it came together near the end. I was starting to hit the ball well by the end of the tournament.

"But I know what I'm capable of achieving and there's always room for improvement."

Raemaki ended the tournament as the lead-off batter for the Junior Black Sox. "We promoted him to that spot because of his ability to get on base," coach John Love said.

"He's pretty versatile [as a batter] and usually very consistent. He's quite an athlete and very tidy in the field and understands the game well.

"He led the team well, but by his standards probably didn't hit the ball as well as he would have liked to and he will be hurting from the results there.

"But he goes very well in the men's game and seems to go better at that level," said Love, who expects Raemaki to have a "good shot" of making the world championship squad.

Raemaki leaves school this year and will probably concentrate on softball in 2013, particularly if he is selected for the world championship.

He also plans to head to North America in the winter, to play for the Jarvis Travelers, the Canadian club team which has won three successive world championship titles.

The Travelers, who are based in Ontario, have a strong New Zealand connection with Donny Hale, Brad Rona, Ben Enkoa and Tyron Bartorillo all in the side which won the 2012 club title in August.

Although softball has long been Raemaki's sporting priority, he has also played touch rugby, rugby, rugby league and basketball during his school years and competed in the javelin at the McEvedy Shield meeting.

The Black Sox tour to North America restricted his rugby opportunities this year but he played a handful of games for the Rongotai first XV, including a couple of appearances at first five-eighth, and also played for the school league team.

"Anything with a ball - that's me."

Contact Tim Barton
Racing editor and college sport writer
Email: tim.barton@dompost.co.nz

- The Dominion Post

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