Marlborough couple Colin and Ali Hayes are still coming down to earth after watching their eldest son Nik become a world champion last weekend.
Nik was part of the Black Sox softball side which clinched this country's sixth men's world title at Auckland's Rosedale Park on Sunday and his parents were there to support him all the way.
"We flew up to Auckland on Thursday in time to watch the opening ceremony and then the Black Sox first pool match against Mexico", said Colin.
"Nik pitched three innings and threw really well. He faced 10 batters and struck out eight. I hadn't seen him pitch for about two years so I was pretty impressed as he seemed to have gained pace after the US tour [his first time representing the Black Sox]. He was on fire.
"In Nik's younger Marlborough days, he was always fast and a little erratic, but since his move to Wellington and his selection in the Black Sox, he has improved to the pitcher he has become today.
"The Black Sox staff wanted him as a closer so his game time was dependent on how the team was performing. He's a young guy, but they were willing to thrust him into a pressure situation where you can go from hero to zero very quickly."
Fortunately Nik stayed in the former category, coming in late to the vital Australian match on Friday and impressing with a one hit - no runs - five strike out performance as the Kiwis prevailed in an extra innings nail-biter to earn a smoother path to the final. Colin watched every moment of the pivotal match and laughingly suggested he was fortunate to survive it.
"I thought I was going to have a heart attack", he recalled.
"We were directly behind home plate. The crowd were chanting ‘Hazie, Hazie' . . . it doesn't get any better than that. Everything went right for him that night."
Although Nik wasn't called on in the final against surprise package Venezuela he was the relief pitcher if first choice hurler Jeremy Manley wilted. Fortunately for the Black Sox that wasn't the case.
"[Manley] pitched a great game," said Colin. "Nik was ready to step up, but in the end he was just happy to be part of it. I think he gained confidence from the Aussie game. He surprised himself as they were the current world champions."
Mum Ali described the whole experience as "pretty surreal".
"Both Colin and I are so proud of Nik and what he has achieved in his debut World Series. It's so great to see Nik take his opportunities and, according to his coaches and senior players, he has a big future ahead of him with the Black Sox - that's pretty exciting.
"He's put in the hard yards and been rewarded. He gets heaps of support from his partner Sam [Poa] who was also with us in Auckland along with their two daughters Avhiia, 3, and eight month old Niia cheering on their dad. I felt nervous for him when he was on the mound but Nik's a pretty laid back, calm young man."
Nik's younger brother Dylan wished he was there too, but unfortunately was unable to due to rugby commitments with his Wellington club.
The last word belongs to former Marlborough softball and rugby rep Colin.
"I enjoyed playing sport at the level I did. But, as a parent, nothing compares with seeing your offspring become a world champion."
- The Marlborough Express