Black Sox team could be struck out by merge

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 11:31 16/12/2012
Black Sox
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ
DOWN TO LAST OUT: The Black Sox men's softball team face an uncertain future after March's world championship in Auckland, with the international governing bodies of softball and baseball merging.

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Next year's softball world championships in Auckland could be the last time New Zealand's men's team play for a world title.

The former world softballs champion Black Sox face an unlikely future with the formation of an international diamond sports body.

Last Wednesday, the International Softball Federation and International Baseball Federation agreed to creat a new world body governing both sports.

The move was made with the goal of including baseball, for men, and softball, for women, at future Olympic Games - and could effectively spell the end of the Black Sox as we know them.

The plans to create an international diamond sports body comes after a tumultuous week for Softball New Zealand, with the resignation of chairman Rex Capil and the calling of a crisis meeting in Wellington today.

The meeting has been called by 10 regional associations, where it is expected SNZ general manager Dane Dougan will face a grilling over the current state of the game in New Zealand.

Dougan and Capil did not respond to calls made yesterday.

A recent report, title Rebuilding Our Foundations, was written by a number of former and current softball figures, and called for a "high energy" change manager to be appointed to SNZ - which would potentially see Dougan out of job.

Earlier in the year, SNZ missed out on $300,000 of funding from the New Zealand Community Trust - leading the organisation to make four staff redundant to make ends meet.

New Zealand is set to host the 2012 ISF Men's World Softball Championship in Auckland next March - but it is understood there are people in the game that believe the tournament could represent the high water mark for softball if the administration doesn't make significant changes.

Other top level New Zealand softball teams are on the slide as well - with the White Sox finishish a record worst 13th at th women's world champs in July, and the junior men's team failing to reach the semifinals of their recent championship in Argentina.

Cast against softball's anguish is the continued rise of baseball in New Zealand, including the recent surprise success at the World Baseball Classic qualifiers in Taiwan.

Softball legend Mark Sorenson admits he has concerns for the sport in New Zealand, and believes its administration needs a shake-up.

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"I think there are challenges that not everyone is aware of in terms of trying to get the game going in the direction that we need - in terms of funding and financial support," he said.

"Those challenges are right at the feet of those driving the game. I don't think it's catastrophic, but I do think some things need to happen, and some things need to change. I don't think it's going forward en masse."

The Black Sox have been crowned world champions five times since 1976, with its most recent title in 2004.

- Sunday News

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