Rhys Casley, former Black Sox captain: U-18 World Cup was huge for softball in New Zealand

Rhys Casley, former Black Sox captain: U-18 World Cup was huge for softball in New Zealand
13/05/2020
With the three-month anniversary coming up since the start of the WBSC U-18 Men's Softball World Cup 2020, which took place in Palmerston North, New Zealand from 22 February to 1 March, the WBSC caught up with one of the most recognisable faces at Colquhoun Park, former Black Sox star Rhys Casley, to look back at the memorable event.

A classy player both on and off the field, former New Zealand Men's Softball National Team captain Rhys Casley has seen his fair share of top events throughout his stellar 12-year career at the international level. And having witnessed the WBSC U-18 Men's Softball World Cup 2020 earlier this year in New Zealand from the TV commentators booth, the now retired second baseman was full of praise for the tournament, which saw Japan claim the honours ahead of Australia and the Czech Republic at Palmerston North's Colquhoun Park.

“I think the U-18 Men’s Softball World Cup as a whole, as a package, was awesome. Having the World Cup in Palmerston North was huge for softball in New Zealand,” he said. “Normally we host softball events in the big cities, mostly Auckland, so it was really good to get an international tournament out of the big metropolis and into the regions.”

“The Palmerston North City Council was fantastic in putting over a couple of millions on it, the infrastructure they put in place, it’s just a really good legacy project that will be there forever. And we can do this again in the future, you never know.”

A member of the New Zealand Softball Hall of Fame, Casley said he was very impressed with the level of play during the U-18 Men’s Softball World Cup. “Japan and Australia were fantastic throughout the tournament, we saw a little bit from Argentina, a little bit from New Zealand, a little bit from Canada and the Czech Republic, but not at a consistent level. So I certainly think it’s going to be a big thing for the programs moving forward to focus on the consistency.

“I think the change of the age bracket, from U-19 to U-18 has been huge. We saw even 14-year-old players in the tournament, and you must take into account that probably it was their first time away from mum and dad, first time away from their countries, so it’s really hard for the coaches to manage that. Because they must be coaches, but also mentors and parents. So I think the age gap has influenced the level of play.”

Casley, 41, is most remembered for his leading role as captain of the New Zealand team that conquered the world in 2013 in Auckland. His game-winning three-run homer against Venezuela in the final of that event gave New Zealand their sixth men’s softball world title and remains as one of the most memorable moments in the history of softball in New Zealand.

The New Zealand victory in 2013 was the country's sixth world title. “I have a lot of memories of this event. But mainly the struggles we had before the tournament and the adversity we had to overcome. We didn’t have a lot of support from the then CEO, the injuries we had as a team, the form we took into that tournament, was all really tough. So when I look back to that event and reflect on that, I recall how we overcame the adversity.”

New Zealand will be hosting again the WBSC Men’s Softball World Cup in Auckland soon, after it was postponed from 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m really excited about the World Cup coming back here, the first time since 2013 when we lifted the trophy. We know the support from the fans will be here, we felt it and it was really nice. It was great to sort of capture the attention of the nation for 10 days, so I really hope for the boys’ sake that they can do that again because it was really exciting and was really a nice time in our lives.”


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