By Jim Birchall
With spring threatening an appearance; it won’t be long before the thwack of maple on cowhide rings around Lloyd Elsmore Park as baseball takes centre stage.
The sport is still developing in New Zealand and has traditionally jostled with cricket, tennis and sister-game softball for summer participation. Recently however, Auckland’s diverse population and pay TV access to Major League Baseball has resulted in an upward trend in player numbers.
One of these agents of change, local club the Howick Hawks, have been putting out sides in the Auckland baseball competition since the early 1990s and have fielded youth teams since 1993. Currently it has more than 200 registered players, a fair chunk of the estimated 1500 nationwide.
Club president Glen Campbell started his involvement in baseball after seeing an ad in the Times which led to his son ditching cricket for America’s national pastime. Hard work paid off for both Campbell’s sons Scott and Aaron, who played college ball, and, in Scott’s case, professionally after being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the mid 2000s.
In total 18 players from the club’s youth ranks have progressed to play for US colleges, highlighting the Hawks’ strong coaching and nurturing infrastructure and development pathway.
The Hawks’ home has been Lloyd Elsmore Park since 1998 after moving from their original base in Eastern Beach to the purpose-built, three field facility which hosts under-age national championships and was utilised for the World Masters Games in 2017.
Campbell would like to see further investment at the park and has a vision to create a baseball hub in east Auckland. He is currently lobbying council for $800,000 for the addition of three new light towers, allowing for games and practices 12 months a year.
- If you, or someone you know, would like to try baseball this summer, online registration is now open via the website hphawks.co.nz .If you are a baseball novice there is no need for trepidation, as in the words of the immortal Babe Ruth, “Never allow the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game!”