February 09, 2011
Well, this would seem to qualify as some unconventional news: The Boston Red Sox have signed Te Wara Bishop, a 17-year-old softball catcher from New Zealand.
Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports that Bishop will be at this year's spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., and will begin the process of converting from one sport to the other during extended spring training.
Big differences aside, maybe this isn't as nutty as we think. After all, if the Pittsburgh Pirates can sign two cricket-playing teenagers from India, and a teenage female knuckleballer from Japan can make headlines in spring training, and Matt Stairs(notes) can get a contract at his age, 43 in 2011, well, this doesn't seem all that crazy.
Also, as Curtis Granderson(notes) documented for us last month, men's fastpitch softball in New Zealand is serious business. This isn't the Red Sox coming into Chicago's Grant Park and signing the first Brian Dennehy-lookalike they see chugging a beer after smashing a 16-inch mushball into the stratosphere above Lake Michigan.
From the Boston Globe:
"We have been impressed by his abilities behind the plate, he has excellent hands and a strong throwing arm, and with instruction from our Boston Red Sox coaches, we are confident he can make the appropriate changes from softball to baseball," Red Rox Pacific Rim scout Jon Deeble told the web site Stuff.co.nz.
"We believe he shows the aptitude and willingness to be a successful baseball player. He has also showed us the ability to hit the ball out of the park. There needs to be a few minor adjustments made from the softball swing to baseball with the ball coming from different angles. This will also take time, but watching him hit some baseballs, he showed us a great amount of bat speed."
Does Bishop face long odds of ever starting a game behind the plate at Fenway Park? Of course he does. There are plenty of catchers in the Red Sox organization who have played baseball their entire lives and won't even come close.
But it'll certainly be interesting to watch his journey. Baseball men have always prided themselves in looking for talent in unusual places and this is just their latest attempt.