The ball players outnumbered the spectators at Blacktown International Sportspark's baseball diamond last night, so the Taiwanese gentleman with the video recorder was fairly conspicuous behind home plate.
Two compatriots were also casting a discerning eye over the Diamondblacks' final Sydney hit-out before their World Baseball Classic preparations relocate to the Australian capital, occasionally taking notes as New Zealand thrashed the Blacktown Workers club side 14-1.
"We have nothing to hide," shrugged Baseball New Zealand chief executive Ryan Flynn, downplaying the brazen espionage.
Flynn is actually gratified his team is being spied on at all before this disparate band of nearly-men and wide-eyed youths strive to put New Zealand baseball on the map in Taipei City from next Thursday.
"It's a compliment," he said as the trio packed up.
"New Zealand was never mentioned in the same sentence with 'baseball' two and a half years ago and now we're being scouted by the eighth-best team in the world ... three nights in a row. It's flattering for our kids.
"They look at our coaches, they're timing our pitchers, they're taking very detailed reports.
"I'm sure they see tendencies, maybe it will help them,"said Flynn, who mused: "We would take a look at them too if we that those kind of resources.''
Instead New Zealand's mixture of home-grown, Australian-based and America's who qualify through bloodlines will rely on beginners' luck when they compete at a winner-takes-all qualifying tournament for the first time - a long shot towards the 16-team WBC in March.
The interested observers would not have been sending urgent communiques back to base after watching the Sydney Blue Sox win their two-game series with the Diamond Blacks by a combined 22-5, although Flynn insisted the margin was irrelevant, given the hit outs were designed to give everyone in the 28-man roster game time as they get acquainted.
There was certainly more polished in all facets against Blacktown, although their opposition represented a significant drop in class from the Australian Baseball League's Blue Sox and bore no resemblance to the three-pronged challenge the Philippines, Thailand and the tournament hosts will present.
The Diamondblacks conceded a run pretty much off the bat but had taken the lead by the top of the second through Daniel Devonshire and Te Wera Bishop, two players with Major League Baseball aspirations.
A seven-run blitz during the Diamondblacks' fifth turn at bat effectively ended the contest as New Zealand's batters slapped the ball into open space, were walked by inaccurate pitching or advanced on fielding errors.
Daniel Bradley encapsulated Blacktown's woes when he got on base with a line drive, stole second and made it home when an attempt to take out Max Brown at first went awry.
Boss Moanaroa then slugged the ball to the centre field with bases loaded to bring home Alan Schoenburger and Brown then former Toronto Blue Jay minor leaguer Scott Campbell increased the lead to 6-1 when he took advantage of a wild pitch.
He also profited from a fielding error to notch his second run and propel the Diamondblacks into double figures at the top of the sixth and in New Zealand's next trip to the plate, Campbell recorded his third on the back of an Aaron Campbell clout that also enabled Moanaroa to saunter around to compete the rout.
New Zealand travel to Canberra today and take on the Canberra Calvary's rookie team tomorrow before a double-header with the top team on Friday and Saturday. They fly out on Sunday and prepare to play Taiwan in the tournament opener on November 15.
- © Fairfax NZ News