Makea returns to experienced Black Sox side
Black Sox great Thomas Makea has returned from a brief retirement to bolster the world champion New Zealand softball team for their transtasman test series against Australia in Auckland next week.
Makea retired from international softball after the Black Sox record sixth world championship victory in Auckland last March.
But the man universally regarded as New Zealand's greatest outfielder is now the Junior Black Sox Under-19 national coach but has continued to play club softball for Poneke-Kilbirnie.
New Black Sox coach Mark Sorenson has persuaded Makea, a four-time world champion, to play against Australia, alongside fellow veterans Nathan Nukunuku, the new captain, Donny Hale, Brad Rona and pitcher Heinie Shannon.
"Experience wise Thomas Makea is back to help with his leadership,'' Sorenson said. ''He's a proven performer at international level and puts fear in the opponents, he demands respect. Nathan Nukunuku is a great captain and leader of the team as well.''
Veteran Canterbury catcher Stephen Ratu, who last played for New Zealand at the 2009 world championships, also returns behind the mask alongside Wellington's Te Wera Bishop, who is back from a brief career in baseball.
Canterbury outfielder Josh Thomson is the only new cap.
Young Marlborough hurler Kurt Schollum joins a pitching staff led by former Marlburian Nik Hayes (Hutt Valley), Canterbury's Regan Manley and Shannon.
Auckland's Thomas Enoka, who has represented New Zealand before as a pitcher, has been selected as an infielder. His brother Ben, who has two world championships behind him, remains in the squad as an outfielder.
Wellington shortstop Jerome Raemaki, regarded as unlucky to miss last year's world championship team, returns to the Black Sox ranks.Sorenson said the Australian series was ''the start of a new future'' for the Black Sox.
''There are only seven players from last year's world Champs. There are some extremely talented players who have been named who have been knocking on the door for a few years."
"Te Wera Bishop has come back from the Boston Red Sox and has had a good transition into softball. He's very young and technically very sound behind the plate. A couple of other young players to watch out for include Jerome Raemaki, who had previously been a captain of the under-19 team along with pitcher Kurt Schollum...''Sorenson said the Australian series would be a ''good yardstick and a test of our strength''.
Australia boasts the world's top pitcher, Adam Folkard, who has had his fastball clocked at just under 140kmh and left-hander Andrew Kirkpatrick, who pitched Auckland club Ramblers to the New Zealand club title last weekend.
The two teams last meet in a feisty quarterfinal at the world championships in Auckland, which the Black Sox won in a 10-innings thriller.
Games will be played on Friday, March 28, at 7.30pm and Saturday, March 29, at 12pm and 2.30pm. All three games will be live on Sky TV.
BLACK SOX SQUAD
Pitchers: Nik Hayes (Hutt Valley), Regan Manley (Canterbury), Kurt Schollum (Marlborough), Heinie Shannon (Auckland)
Catchers: Te Wera Bishop (Wellington), Stephen Ratu (Canterbury)
Infielders: Tyron Bartorillo (Canterbury), Thomas Enoka (Auckland), Nathan Nukunuku (Auckland) (Captain), Jerome Raemaki (Wellington), Brad Rona (North Harbour)
Outfielders: Ben Enoka (Auckland), Donny Hale (Auckland), Wayne Laulu (Wellington), Campbell Makea (Wellington), Thomas Makea (Wellington), Josh Thomson (Canterbury)