Teen picked for NZ team
Story by: JOSH REICH - The Nelson Mail - Photo by: MARTIN de Ruyter - Nelson Mail
Stoke softballer Daniel Mallabar will be easing off the holiday goodies in the coming weeks, as he comes to grips with a new sport and tough international competition.
Daniel, who turns 15 tomorrow, has been selected in the New Zealand 16 and under baseball team to compete against Australia and Guam in the AA Oceania Championships in Auckland towards the end of January.
The winner of the tournament will represent Oceania at the world championships in Mexico in August.
Daniel trialled for the team in Christchurch, immediately after playing for the senior Nelson softball team at the Jefferies Cup South Island championships.
His selection caps a stellar year for the Nelson College student, who played for the International Softball Academy team at the Softball Australia International Friendship Series in Sydney in July.
"This baseball thing is about trying it out because I've never tried it before, I don't know what it's about.
"This is just an opportunity, I'm not saying I'm not playing softball any more and moving to Auckland to play baseball, but it's just an opportunity to see what it is.
"It's pretty exciting, it's awesome."
He will be in Auckland for most of January, training and learning how to play the game, including working with Curtis Granderson, an outfielder with the New York Yankees.
While the games may look similar, there are differences which mean it will take some getting used to, such as the increased size of the diamond, smaller ball, and faster pitching.
Top baseball pitchers can throw the ball up to 60kmh quicker than their softball equivalents, and as a catcher, as well as a batter, it will take some adjustment.
"From what I've heard, if you're a baseballer changing to softball it is harder than if you play softball and switch to baseball.
"But I'm going to do my best.
"I expect to get really tired.
"We had those trials and we had to sprint 60 metres, they call it the 60m dash, and we had to do three or four of them.
"You think `oh, that's not hard', but by the third or fourth one you're actually quite tired, you're sprinting your hardest."
He hoped he'd don the catchers mask at the tournament, but was also just happy to play any position.
To accommodate his baseball, Daniel had to pull out of the Nelson under-19 side as it clashes with a training camp early in the new year.
He was disappointed to let his team-mates and coach down, but felt it was an opportunity to good to miss.
However, while he is in Auckland, the Nelson under-17 side will be competing at the age-group nationals, and Daniel was hopeful of being able to fit both in, especially with national selection a possibility after that tournament.
Earlier this year, six Nelson softballers travelled to the United States with the New Zealand under-17 youth development baseball team.