Warkworth baseballer Jaden Takiari, 12, will play for New Zealand in the Asia Pacific regional qualifiers in Hwaseong, South Korea in July.
Takiari was selected for the Auckland baseball side in January. The team then competed against other regional teams from across the country to claim the sole NZ spot in the tournament in Korea.
Takiari started playing baseball when he was five and is believed to be the only Rodney based baseballer playing at a competitive level. It has meant he has had to play for Counties Manukau, training each week in Mount Roskill.
Auckland Baseball head coach Aaron Soper says the team is glad to have Takiari on their side ahead of the international tournament.
“Jaden is a promising little player and certainly can swing a bat,” Soper says. “He was selected for his keen attitude and hitting ability.”
Coach Soper says the Auckland team has an uphill battle in in Korea as they will be up against some of the best teams in Asia.
“The Asia Pacific qualifier is where all the teams in the region compete for a spot at the Little League World Series in the United States. We will be playing the likes of Korea and Chinese Taipei, who have sharp players that pitch well.
“It would be huge if we won, but our goal is to reach the semi-final. At last year’s Asia Pacific tournament we won a game, which was a first, and we are happy with that progress.”
Takiari’s mother Cheri Dawson says it can be difficult supporting the amount of travel involved because of the costs and time commitment.
“Jaden will also trial for the New Zealand team in the Ripken Cup, which is played in the United States.”
Piers Barney, from Norma Jean Charters, and Fiona Mann, from Pinehaven Rest Home, have come on as sponsors. Fiona was formerly a national water polo player and used to play softball, and has been able to take the time to mentor Takiari.
The Range in Warkworth has also provided him with a programme and practice sessions.
Takiari says his favourite part of playing baseball is getting to hang out with his mates all day, but he loves the opportunity to steal bases while the pitcher isn’t looking.
He says that his goal is to one day play US major league baseball.