Today was an amazing way to end the baseball portion of the trip to New Zealand. The Oceana 16-and-under tournament started with competition between Guam, Australia and New Zealand. I ultimately have to say I was impressed with two things.
The first is that the teams seemed really prepared, and their athletic ability was even stronger than I originally thought. Physically, the Australian kids seemed so much bigger, and a few of their kids played like it as well, as one of them slammed a home run over the center-field fence. Guam has a lot of speed, and technically, New Zealand was doing a really good job in its fielding.
The second thing that impressed me has been how organized the tournament was. I've obviously been to a ton of baseball events, and some are just madhouses. From start to finish, this thing ran very smoothly, and you have to credit Baseball New Zealand for that. The field looked amazing, it had Sky Sport TV there with seven cameras airing this live across the nation and it was even able to bring in some interesting food vendors as you'll see in this video.
One part that is missing from the video above is the traditional haka dance. This might be one of the coolest things I've ever seen. The New Zealand team walks across the diamond before the game starts and does a tribal dance similar to the one I was welcomed with at the airport. Only this is more intimidating and includes a lot of heavy breathing, yelling and some pretty mean stares. The opposing team is standing right in front of them when it happens. Maybe we could do that in Fenway Park this year!
Unfortunately I had the wrong button playing on my Flip cam, so I didn't get the haka dance. HOWEVER, Yankees On Demand is here with us, and they did get it, so during the season, we'll be able to see that thing.
Today I get to experience New Zealand as we head out to see some of the country and take a brief tour of some vineyards before then meeting the Prime Minister for dinner. It should be a great time.
I also want to wish the best of luck to a couple kids I have worked with regularly here and gotten to know pretty well — Joe and DeWald. They are both flying to Seattle today for three semesters to finish out high school and play baseball in the U.S. That's not an easy thing for a pair of 16 year-olds to do — just up and fly halfway across the world for a while. I'm sure I'll see them as we play in Seattle twice this season.