New Zealand softball rep Te Wera Bishop is the latest Kiwi getting a chance to chase the American baseball dream after nailing a deal with the Boston Red Sox.
The Porirua 17-year-old was spotted by Red Sox scout Jon Deeble while he was in New Zealand checking out the Oceania AA Baseball Championships in Auckland last month.
Bishop, a Black Sox catcher, had a younger brother, Te Kahui, playing in the baseball tournament but caught the eye of Deeble.
"I don't know what to expect. I'm just over the moon," Bishop said.
Bishop will officially sign his Red Sox contract in Auckland tomorrow and then faces a busy time getting up to speed with his new game.
"We have been impressed by his abilities behind the plate, he has excellent hands and a strong throwing arm, and with instruction from our Boston Red Sox coaches, we are confident he can make the appropriate changes from softball to baseball," Deeble said.
"We believe he shows the aptitude and willingness to be a successful baseball player. He has also showed us the ability to hit the ball out of the park. There needs to be a few minor adjustments made from the softball swing to baseball with the ball coming from different angles.
"This will also take time, but watching him hit some baseballs, he showed us a great amount of bat speed."
Bishop tried out for several major league teams last month, but it was the Red Sox who made the initial offer. The national representative softball player will be flown from New Zealand to Sydney on the March 3, where he will gather with two Maori brothers who were signed by the Red Sox two years ago, Boss and Moko Moanaroa, and then they'll all be flown to Fort Myers, Florida, where Bishop will complete spring training and extended spring training with the Red Sox organisation.
The Red Sox will keep Bishop busy during the off season as well, as he will attend the Australian MLB Academy in June.
"It's amazing opportunity for any young athlete to sign with a Major League Baseball team," said David Ballinger, President of Baseball New Zealand.
"We've gotten to know Te Wera and his family through his brother Te Kahui, who played on our 16U national team, and they are incredible people, incredible athletes and very deserving of this honour and selection."
No New Zealander has so far cracked the Major League Baseball ranks, although former Black Sox Travis Wilson spent eight years with the Atlanta Braves organisation while Aucklander Scott Campbell is currently on the books of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The catcher is taking a step in the unknown, but is excited by the challenge.
Black Sox coach Eddie Kohlhase had earmarked Bishop for a big future in softball, but he has no qualms about the teen pursuing a baseball career.
"This is an opportunity that everyone dreams of and for a young man from Wellington to be given this opportunity says a lot for his family and the Black Sox," Kohlhase said.
"We have one of our own off to one of the greatest sports organisations in the world and we are very proud that it has happened."
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