Five Invercargill softball players will have the chance to tap into the wisdom of some of New Zealand's greatest players while competing across the Tasman.
The Invercargill Dodgers Softball Club has secured spots in the International Softball Academy in Australia for its talented youngsters.
Devon Robinson and Dylan Richardson will join the academy's New Zealand youth team to contest the New South Wales invitational tournament in Sydney next month, while Tane Tuhakaraina, Greg Baker and Jake Hansen will feature in the team at the 10-day Friendship Series Tour in July.
Former Black Sox catcher Bevan Matene, a member of the three-peat world series-winning New Zealand men's team and assistant coach of the 2010 White Sox World Series team, will be at the helm of the Friendship Tour team, while Auckland's Max Debrett will coach the youth team, assisted by former Black Sox pitcher Regan Manley.
Black Sox legend Chubb Tangaroa, who also coaches at the academy, met the players in Invercargill last night, along with academy founder Craig Waterhouse. Dodgers president Donna Milne said the players' inclusion "brings to life" the club's strategic plan.
"The local major league only has three teams and I believe all clubs need to look within to find a solution," she said.
"I had to look outside the square to create opportunities and ensure our young talented players got elite exposure – something they can't get locally.
"The partnership between Dodgers and the ISA organisers and coaches will be a formidable one."
All current or former Softball New Zealand board members, the academy's senior softball administrators were highly respected and experienced, she said. "They share the same desires and passion as our Dodgers club for the sport of softball and are using their knowledge and international contacts to add to the experiences of the players involved," she said.
"But they never lose sight of the fact that great softball players are created one at a time."
Five of the current wider Black Sox squad of 30 came through the academy programme in the past three years and that speaks volumes about the impact it can have."
- The Southland Times