MLB Ambassador and Envoy Programmes Bring talented Trio to Auckland for MLB’s Training with the Pros Camp

07/01/2012

Major League Baseball (MLB) and Baseball New Zealand are teaming up to present ‘Training with the Pros’ baseball camp and clinics across Auckland this month, with a week of world-class baseball instruction featuring three current Major League Baseball players plus some of New Zealand’s top coaches and national team players.

Major League Baseball (MLB) and Baseball New Zealand are teaming up to present ‘Training with the Pros’ baseball camp and clinics across Auckland this month, with a week of world-class baseball instruction featuring three current Major League Baseball players plus some of New Zealand’s top coaches and national team players.

The MLB Ambassador Trip will feature the ‘Training with the Pros’ camp that will take place from 16-20 January at Lloyd Elsmore Park in Pakuranga, east Auckland, and will feature Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Mark Melancon, San Diego Padres Catcher Nick Hundley, and Toronto Blue Jays infielder-outfielder Chris Woodward, a veritable All Star team of Major League talent.

There will also be special appearances throughout the week from Maori Australian Baseball League player Moko Moanaroa, former Los Angeles Angels minor leaguer Gus Ledger, and recent Boston Red Sox signee Te Wera Bishop.

Major League Baseball’s ‘Training with the Pros’ concept has been hugely popular in Australia in recent years, and has been a key reason for the sport’s growth across the ditch. The programme attracted hundreds of young players last January in Auckland when New York Yankees centerfielder and one of the sport’s most travelled Ambassadors Curtis Granderson led the list of coaches.

According to Major League Baseball officials, the interest shown by the organisation and some of the world’s best baseball players is no coincidence.

“Major League Baseball is committed to growing the game around the world – we feel that baseball is a rapidly emerging sport in New Zealand with limitless potential for growth,” said Paul Archey, Senior Vice President of International Business Operations for Major League Baseball from his New York office. “This is a great opportunity to help the players of New Zealand prepare for the World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament being held later this year,” Archey added, referring to Baseball New Zealand’s most important achievement to date-its participation (Senior Men’s Team) in baseball’s premiere global showcase in September at a location to be determined.

For the visiting Major League players, New Zealand represents a chance to help with the growth of the game in one of the world’s most beautiful countries-and one of the most promising baseball nations.

“I am excited not only to travel to New Zealand with my wife, but to see how New Zealand baseball has evolved,” said San Diego Padres starting catcher and rising star Nick Hundley. “We are ready to take in the country and bring some of what we have learned as professional baseball players. The opportunity we have been given to travel and share our knowledge is something we relish and will enjoy. This is a once in a lifetime chance and I can’t wait to get to Auckland.”

Melancon, who was recently traded from the Houston Astros to the Boston Red Sox and looks to figure in the ‘closer’ discussions for the perennial American League East power, actually spent one day in December 2010 working with 30 of New Zealand’s young players on a holiday with his wife. He returns ready to roll up his sleeves to help New Zealand take the next step.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to teaching clinics in New Zealand, (and) I feel that this is one of the ways I can give back in a way that will hopefully mean so much to kids who appreciate the game,” said Melancon, who recently travelled to Taiwan with Granderson and other Major League Baseball stars for a series of games against top Taiwanese professional players. “Nick and I have known and played together for a long time and as a pitcher/catcher combination I believe that we have a potential to reach a wide audience in the game of baseball.”

Said David Ballinger, President of Baseball New Zealand: “Curtis Granderson’s visit was a huge jumpstart for the game of baseball last year, but having three stars of the game who play four different positions will reach so many of our young kids and coaches and teach each of them the right play the game. We feel incredibly fortunate that Tom and his team believe as much as we do in the potential of our nation’s young baseballers.”

“New Zealand is one of the neatest places I have been,” added Melancon. “I am so proud to say that I will be able to help some of the kindest people in the world! I am thoroughly looking forward to this opportunity.”

Woodward, who is travelling to New Zealand as part of New Zealand’s Envoy Programme, which provides top MLB players and coaches to nations around the world that require and request high level coaching assistance, will work with Melancon and Hundley at the camp and clinics, but will spend a great deal of time with New Zealand’s Junior Diamondblacks. The 18U Junior Diamondblacks will travel to Guam for the Oceania Baseball Championships from 27 January-3 February to determine the region’s representative in the International Baseball Federation’s World Championships to be held in Korea in August.

“I am excited to watch and assist with developing a baseball program that will build quality ballplayers for many years to come,” said Woodward, the true veteran of the three MLB players, who has played nearly 1600 professional baseball games with five Major League Baseball teams. “I can’t wait to spread my knowledge and philosophies to such an eager group of ballplayers and coaches.”