There are six sets of brothers on the New Zealand team preparing for
next week’s qualifying round of the World Baseball Classic, but it’s the
brothers Moanaroa who have become the face of a team making the
country’s first-ever appearane in the tournament.
Moko, 22, and Boss, 21, are widely considered two of the most accomplished young
players in a country where baseball is rapidly growing. They grew up in
Australia, but their family is from New Zealand.
Moko, an outfielder, played in 98 games over four seasons in the Red Sox
organization before being released in 2011. Boss, a first baseman, followed his
brother’s footsteps into the Boston organization in 2009 and played
this season at Class A Greenville.
Personal accolades aside, Moko and Boss are looking forward to carving their
place in New Zealand baseball history. The team begins action in the second
World Baseball Classic qualifying round at 5:30 a.m. ET on Nov. 15 in
New Taipei City, Taiwan. The games can be seen live on MLB Network.
“Definitely, being the first New Zealand team, I feel very prideful,” Boss said.
“No one in baseball has ever done this.”
The Moanaroa brothers and the rest of their Kiwi teammates enter the qualifier
as clear underdogs, the only squad in the four-team bracket — which includes
No. 8 Chinese Taipei, No. 23 Thailand and No. 31 Philippines — unranked by the
International Baseball Federation.
But Boss said he’s been impressed with the team’s ability.
“Most of the team hasn’t had a lot of experience, but we have a lot of good
players on this team,” Boss said. “I think the whole world is going to be shocked
at what kind of talent we have in New Zealand.”
Other New Zealanders to watch include:
• John Holdzkom, a 6-foot-7 right-hander who appeared in six games for the
Reds’ high-A affiliate in 2012 and has a fastball that has been
clocked at 101 mph.
• Daniel Lamb-Hunt, who spent time in the Braves organization after being a
standout softball player. He recently completed his
third season of European baseball.
• Catcher Te Wera Bishop, also a former softball player, who once
signed with the Red Sox.
For Moko and others, the World Baseball Classic provides a chance for them to get
another look from Major League teams.
“Definitely, it’d be good to be picked up again, even independent ball as well,”
Moko said. “Go out there and show them what I’ve got.”
The play on the field isn’t the only thing New Zealand has in store for fans.
It also has a dance. A number of players are Maori, a strong culture in New Zealand.
Maori culture is the source of the haka, a war dance players perform
before games, much like New Zealand’s rugby team does.
“We actually made our own war dance just for the baseball team, and we’ve done
it before every game so far,” Boss said. “It’s going to be exciting — first time
anyone’s seen it. Everyone’s excited to do it, and it really motivates everyone
and gets people going in the same direction.”