TERALBA slugger Boss Moanaroa hopes he can become a pioneer of New Zealand baseball after smashing the nation’s first home run last Friday.The Diamondblacks played their first international as part of the qualifying stage of the World Baseball Classic in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on November 15 against Chinese Taipei.
Chinese Taipei flogged the new boys 10-0 in their debut, but the Kiwis bounced back in their second match against Thailand to win 12-2, which included Moanaroa’s record-setting home run.
‘‘It was a great experience playing in front of thousands of people in the crowd, especially there, the fans are crazy,’’ Moanaroa said yesterday.
‘‘In America the crowds are really big, but in Taiwan it’s just crazy, as the crowds are loud and really go for their home team.’’
Moanaroa, 21, did not realise his homer would be recorded in the New Zealand sporting history books until after the game, but he has kept the game ball to remember the effort.
The Diamondblacks were the only non-ranked country to compete at the event, which is held every four years. New Zealand also beat the Philippines 10-6, before losing again to Chinese Taipei 9-0 to miss a chance to compete in the final stage of the WBC in Taiwan next March.
Despite not advancing, Moanaroa said the performance has boosted the profile of ‘‘America’s pastime’’ in New Zealand.
‘‘Especially all the little kids who saw us play in the qualifying team, everyone knows we did really well actually,’’ he said.
‘‘If kids saw that hopefully they think, ‘wow, we could play baseball’, so hopefully in the next few years the sport keeps growing and growing and one day maybe we could be one of the best in the world.’’
Moanaroa was born in Newcastle but both his parents grew up in Hamilton, New Zealand, giving him dual citizenship.
Due to the WBC the infielder has missed the opening six games of the Australian Baseball League with the Sydney Blue Sox, but he returned to the team last night against two-time champions Perth Heat at Blacktown International Sportspark.
During the winter Moanaroa played his fourth season in the Boston Red Sox organisation, with class-A ball team Greenville Drive, where he knocked in 49 runs at an average of .262Another three seasons remain on the seven-year contract he signed, and the first baseman is convinced he has the ability to force his way into the major league Red Sox squad.
‘‘I had a solid season and everyone was pretty happy with it, so hopefully next year I can keep moving up,’’ he said.
‘‘They just said I did really well and just to keep progressing and see where it takes you.’’