All Blacks invade San Francisco baseball park

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 17:44 20/07/2013
Victor Vito
PITCH BLACK: Victor Vito takes his turn at batting.

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It was a meeting between the World Cup and the World Series.

The All Blacks were guests of honour in downtown San Francisco last night, with Conrad Smith, Cory Jane, Victor Vito and Aaron Smith welcomed to AT&T Park - home of the reigning World Series baseball champions, the San Francisco Giants.

Appearing for batting practise ahead of the Giants' game against Major League Baseball's national league west leaders, the Arizona Diamondbacks, flanker Vito and halfback Aaron Smith proved surprisingly good at the plate of the Giants' iconic waterfront venue.

Smith connected with all 15, albeit somewhat dollied, pitches he received, though it was Vito who took the glory, bashing three shots not too short of home run territory.

"I was pretty happy with how it went in the ball pen. I played a lot of cricket when I was younger so I know if I kept my eye on it I could have a good crack," Aaron Smith said.

"When I got in there and started knocking them around, I was chuffed as, they weren't coming at you very fast so it was just a case of trying not to be an egg and not swing too hard."

Clearly, namesake Conrad Smith has also played a fair bit of cricket in his time - only this wasn't exactly the time to be pulling out cover drives.

"I kept it on the ground and I was playing to the offside, so my cricket coach would have been happy, but the baseball coach wouldn't be," Smith said.

Giants starting pitcher, and 2011 All-Star, Ryan Vogelsong also ran the All Blacks quartet through a number of pitching grips before it was the rugby players' turn to do some coaching, with Jane, who is recovering from cruciate ligament surgery, and the two Smith's hosting a passing and kicking clinic.

Vogelsong, who has previously played baseball in Japan, said he was more familiar with the sevens rugby than the full form of the game, but, he was able to reel off the name of Royce Willis.

"You got to be pretty darn tough to play a football without padding," he said.

"I'm no expert but I know there's a lot of strategy to it, a lot is based on field position and that's where the kicking comes in.

"Other than that I'd say most American's recognise rugby as the game with the scrums."

With the All Blacks four staying to watch their first baseball game, Aaron Smith said the three-day Californian trip has been taking the quartet's mind off poor Super Rugby seasons for the Hurricanes and Highlanders.

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But, things haven't been perfect for Aaron Smith however, following a close encounter with one of the locals.

"I got attacked by a seagull, but besides that, it's been all good," he said.

"I had a hotdog in my hand down by Fisherman's Wharf and obviously the seasgull wanted the hotdog more than I did, and it got some of my hand too.

"Other than that we've been having fun. To meet professionals like this, and in a stadium like this, has been pretty special. They've got to be on their game for a long time, April to October. Having to be that consistent is pretty hard. A lot of respect goes out to them."

- Fairfax Media

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