Chance of a lifetime for Kiwi baseball star

From local club to Major League

Last updated 05:00 20/01/2012
Pita Rona
PROUD DAY: Pita Rona has signed a deal with Major League franchise Baltimore Orioles.

Related Links

Kiwi teen signs seven year Major League deal Woodward lends Major League hand in NZ Baseball breaks ground in Major League deal

Relevant offers

Other Sports

Vertigo, whip lash and retinas detaching all on the menu for bungy world record breaker Hamilton student gears up for powerchair football tournament The Pioneer postponed | Ironman Oceania explores mountain bike race formats Women run men's race in '261 protest' over gender inequality in Wellington cross-country competition Canterbury's Angie Petty confirmed for athletics world champs after 800m qualifier Sugar Ray Leonard predicts mismatch in Mayweather v McGregor bout Strong winds threaten start to America's Cup in Bermuda America's Cup Hall of Famer Murray Jones: Oracle 'form boat' but it's wide open Gemma McCaw arrives in Los Angeles to play in California Cup hockey tournament Another College World Series beckons for NZ softball captain Ellie Cooper and Kiwi coaches

A week ago, Baltimore was just another name on the map for Auckland teenager Pita Rona.

Now, it's a place that represents not only his future as a sportsman, but also as a young man attempting to do something no New Zealander has done before.

The 17-year-old signed a seven-year contract with Major League Baseball team the Baltimore Orioles in Auckland yesterday, becoming just the fifth Kiwi to sign up with a professional team in the United States.

A New Zealander has never played Major League Baseball, although former Black Sox Travis Wilson came close, missing the Atlanta Braves team by one roster spot after spring training in 2001.

Rona follows in the footsteps of Wellington catcher, and first cousin, Te Wera Bishop, who signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox last April.

A longtime New York Yankees fan, Rona admitted he couldn't quite locate Baltimore on a map of the US but said the opportunity to make the Big Show was one he was going to take with both hands.

"I'm really grateful for this opportunity," he said.

"It can financially set me and my family up for life. I'm actually looking forward to doing all the hard work and trying to improve myself to try and get higher and higher as the years go by."

Rona was offered the contract after being seen in action by top Orioles scouts David Stockstill and Brett Ward on Monday, as he trained with the New Zealand under-18 baseball team in preparation for an upcoming Oceania tournament in Guam.

Scouts often judge the calibre of baseball prospects using five different indicators, or "tools": running speed, arm strength, hitting for average, hitting for power and fielding ability.

Stockstill said that Rona, who has been scouted by the Yankees and Red Sox in the past, had impressive "tools" in all five areas, and can turn into a top baseball player.

"He has a very quick bat, a very quick swing and the ball jumps," Stockstill said. "There will need to be some adjustments to add a little more length, because you have more time with the baseball.

"We see an athlete who will be able to make the transition fairly rapidly and fairly successfully," he said.

Yesterday's signing caps a tumultuous two months for the Rona family, with the new Orioles signee one of three former softball players involved in a controversial axing from the Black Sox just two months ago.

Ad Feedback

Along with his father, Brad, and Black Sox outfielder Ben Enoka, Rona was blacklisted from playing for the national team after it was revealed they had been playing club baseball in Auckland.

The decision to axe the trio from the squad stemmed from an email sent to all Black Sox players from management warning them that if they played baseball, at any level, they risked being cut from the national team.

First stop for Rona in his baseball journey will be the MLB Academy on the Gold Coast this year, before attending Orioles spring training in Florida in 2013.

After that, there are likely to be visits to the Orioles Dominican academy then back to the Gold Coast, before heading back to the US for outings in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

Stockstill, however, said there will be no rush. "It's our job to make sure wherever he goes he can compete successfully," he said.

- Wellington

Special offers
Opinion poll

Will Shane Cameron beat Kali Meehan on Saturday?

For sure. Cameron will knock him out.

It will be close but I think Cameron on points.

Meehan will knock him out. This is his last fight.

I'm tipping Meehan to win on points.

Vote Result

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content