Baseball has existed in New Zealand in some form or another since the late 1870s, with newspapers giving accounts of boys playing baseball in fields in Auckland, Wellington and Otago. The first (recorded) game of baseball played in New Zealand was played in Wellington on October 13, 1888, with the most well known game occurring on December 10, 1888, when Albert Spalding’s teams of All-America and Chicago played a match at the Tramway company grounds in Epsom, Auckland. Chicago won 22 - 19 in front of over 1000 spectators. Clubs were set up across New Zealand from Auckland, Devonport, Christchurch, Wanganui and Wellington, (which hosted over 14 clubs). Foxton also hosted their first game of baseball in September of 1889. Since that time, various local competitions have existed, but it wasn’t until one hundred years later, in 1989, that the “New Zealand Baseball Association” would be formed (incorporated 2002). Since this time baseball has begun to grow rapidly, emerging across other areas of the country, from Canterbury (2003), to Northland (2006) and back to Wellington (2011). Baseball New Zealand is the official national governing body of the sport of baseball in New Zealand.
New Zealand is ranked 26th (01/2017) in the baseball world from unranked four years ago (72nd-119th WBSC Rankings) and has risen from 600 to 7000-plus players and 4 to over 25 Baseball Clubs and Regional Bodies in the past six years. 2014 saw the country get its first MLB New Zealand Representative when relief pitcher John Holdzkom, signed to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Over the past five years, national teams have participated in the following world championship events:
- World Baseball Classic Qualifiers (2012 & 2016)
- WBSC U15 World Championship in Mexico (2014) and Japan (2016)
- WBSC U21 World Championship in Taiwan (2014)
- U13 Ripken World Series in 2014 -2016
There are nine seats on our Board of Directors, with industries and companies represented including SKY Television, Hydraulink, both private and public sector leaders, and currently there are five fulltime staff, as of July 2016. Baseball New Zealand has many supporters and contributors -
- Special Advisors include Fred Claire, Chris Woodward, Mark Melancon, Ron Roenicke, and others.
- Recently formed a Charitable Trust to assist in raising funds and profile of organization and sport.
- Diversifying revenue stream; protecting intellectual property; and have secured a leading NZ law firm and insurance company.
- Have accumulated a long list of in-kind sponsors including airlines hotel, car, printing, sports drink and others.
- Currently have three full-time coaches in the country; in process of hiring a fourth.
- Addition of Naoyuki Shimizu is an important milestone linking program to Japan and professional baseball and potential funding.
- Government/Public Sector Support—Sport New Zealand, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, Tourism New Zealand.
- Solid executive leadership within baseball and support across the nation.
- A former Prime Minister who is ‘baseball friendly’ due to his son’s participation for much of his youth,
- Land being made available on an annual basis by government councils specifically for baseball.
- Body types, especially in the Maori and Pacific Island communities, that rival any baseball bodies in the world from a scout’s perspective.
- A large Korean and Japanese population especially in Auckland.
- A nation that can put players on the field in the World Baseball Classic who have played the sport for less than a year—and be competitive with some of the best programs in the world.
- Despite minimal funding, baseball is generally regarded as one of the fastest growing sports in the country.
- More support in past three years from Japan and US governments with MLB player visits, U15 camp in Chiba prior to WBSC U15s in Iwaki.
- Baseball New Zealand is identifying land across New Zealand, particularly in the pursuit of the nation’s first baseball stadium (Low A, up to 2500 seat) in north Auckland. Working with Ripken Baseball who have generously donated USD$60k for the purpose of a feasibility study.