The Upper South Island (USI) team to square off against the Black Sox at Saxton ballpark this week has been named, and it includes a large Nelson contingent.
The national men's softball team are in Nelson as part of their internal tour as they build towards the world championships in North Harbour next year.
They will play two exhibition matches against the USI team at 5.30pm tomorrow and Thursday, and will host coaching and meet-the-fans sessions.
Among the home side are big hitters Nigel Kelly and Ryan Schollum, Canadian import pitcher Brandon Peck, infield utility Damien Dolejs and the impressive Daniel Mallabar, 16.
The home side is being coached by Nelson's former softball internationals Marty Grant, who pitched for the Black Sox from 1990-2009, and Daryl Stratford, who was a Black Sox short stop from 1982-1988.
Nelson has a current claim to Black Sox fame - Casey Eden, who is in the squad to play at the world championships in March, although he will not be playing in the exhibition games in Nelson.
As well as the exhibition games, the Black Sox players are assisting with coaching sessions and meeting fans. The lucky schools include Waimea College, Nelson College, Nelson Intermediate, Broadgreen Intermediate, Victory Primary and Clifton Terrace School.
The meet and greet for the rest of the region's young softballers is scheduled for 3.15-3.45pm tomorrow afternoon at the ballpark and is free for all to attend.
"The kids can get their posters signed, take photos and meet their heroes," said Nelson Softball chief executive Derryn French.
Black Sox coach Eddie Kohlhase has opted to include several younger members of his squad this week. World championship hopeful Nik Hayes, who grew up in Marlborough, will be wanting to make the most of his chances after his late callup to the Black Sox for their North American tour earlier this year. Hayes will be sharing the pitching duties during the tour with another world championship rookie, Penese Iosefa.
On the tour but expected to take a limited role in the road trip is Black Sox captain Rhys Casley, who underwent shoulder surgery last week.
From Nelson the team travels to Wellington for the Softball Association's 75th jubilee celebrations, and to play against a Wellington Selection team.
The Black Sox will enter the world championship tournament at Rosedale Park ranked second for the first time since 1996. Australia beat New Zealand in Canada in the 2009 competition, ending the Kiwis' run of consecutive world titles in 1996, 2000 and 2004.
The USI squad is: Kurt Schollum (Marl), Ryan Schollum (Marl), Guisseppe Lagrutta (Nel), Damien Dolejs (Nel), Nigel Kelly (Nel), Derryn French (Nel), Luke Bowers (Nel), Daniel Mallabar (Nel), Vincent Whittington (Nel), Brandon Peck (Nel), Jack Rennie (Nel), Jeremy McIlroy (Nel), Gareth Oliver (Nel), Nathan Delany (Nel), Pakuwera Katu (Nel) and Kyle Marfell (Marl).
The Black Sox squad is: Nik Hayes (Hutt Valley), Penese Iosefa (Canterbury), Aaron Neemia (Wellington), Campbell Makea (Wel), Tyron Bartorillo (Cant), Tyson Byrne (Hutt Valley), Dan Tarapi (Wel), Jerome Haretuku (Auckland), Ben Enoka (Auck), Wayne Laulu (Wel), Daniel Milne (Cant) and captain Rhys Casley (Hutt Valley).
- The Nelson Mail