Mark Sorenson: “Extremely challenging” to coach NZ Black Sox with no int'l softball games between World Cups

Mark Sorenson: “Extremely challenging” to coach NZ Black Sox with no int'l softball games between World Cups
“We’re coming up three years since I’ve put the Black Sox uniform, or neither the players. So it’s been a long time between drinks,” recognised Sorenson in an interview with News Talk ZB.

Mark Sorenson’s name comes to mind automatically when you think about men’s softball royalty. A member of the WBSC Softball Hall of Fame since 2009, Sorenson will be the New Zealand Black Sox head coach in the upcoming WBSC Men’s Softball World Cup, which is set to be played in Auckland from 26 November to 4 December. However, it won't be the easiest of paths for the seven-time world champion.

“We’re coming up three years since I [or the players] have put on the Black Sox uniform. So it’s been a long time between drinks,” Sorenson said in an interview with News Talk ZB.

The New Zealand National Softball Team is set to go from one World Cup to the next one without playing a single international game, confirmed Sorenson.

It has been an “extremely challenging time” for the Black Sox after the 2019 World Championship. “It was constantly adding some blocks to the wall. We didn’t know how we’d going to build this wall, but we’ve been doing it for a while. It’s been stages where we’ve gone up and down... And we’ve lost some athletes from a group that have decided: ‘It’s not what I want to do.’” 

However, turning it around, it’s been a real opportunity for New Zealand to develop young talent that was going to be a little immature last year, when the World Cup was originally scheduled, says Sorenson. “Now these guys are getting into their primes, nearly 10 months down the track. The only difference is we’ve not been able to give them 20 or 30 games to get some experience from the maturity point of view.”

Sorenson knows exactly what a player need to get ready for a World Cup. The WBSC Softball Hall of Fame Member is a four-time World Champion as a player, and added another world title as a head coach in 2017. 

With less than 300 days to the WBSC Men’s Softball World Cup first pitch, New Zealand is holding a series of three trials aiming to select the preliminary roster for 2022. The tryouts have been developed in Wellington and Auckland, with the final one set for this weekend in Christchurch. Sorenson said they’re trying to create “international equivalent quality ball”, so the athletes can test themselves against each other. 

The trials are an opportunity for athletes to compete at the highest level. But also for the staff to coach on the field after a long time, says Sorenson. “One of things we identified last time is we didn’t have enough coaching time on the diamond. So not only we’re creating games for the athletes but also creating opportunities for us to do some coaching.” 

Sorenson and his staff will cut the roster to 30 after the trials, and will run camp and intra-squads games in April. “Then, going through October or November, which would be prior the World Cup, we will again simulate a trial series which would be the final selection,” Sorenson confirmed.