Kiwi baseball players are relishing the opportunity to face Japanese superstar Naoyuki Shimizu in the World Masters Games in Auckland. Shimizu is an Olympic medallist and has been described as baseball's equivalent of an All Blacks superstar.
He's a player who only comes around once in a lifetime. While he is well passed his best years, he still plays to win.
Shimizu told te Kāea, “We have the players to win the tournament. There are some strong teams, but so far, we've been done well.”
Many players in the tournament, including the opposition and teammates, are in awe of Shimizu. Baseball New Zealand knows they are fortunate that he is helping the country's up-and-coming players.
Baseball NZ CEO Ryan Flynn says, “He's an ambassador for the World Masters Games. He's moved his children here to help us build the game of Baseball. That's like Richie McCaw moving to the Dominican Republic to help them build the game of rugby.”
Fan and baseball advocate Lar Aerenga says, "Naoyuki's gonna bring some more international players, there's no doubt about that. We're very lucky to have players like Naoyuki."
The World Masters website has described him as being the Dan Carter of baseball. It's something that will take Shimizu some getting used to.
Shimizu says, “Dan Carter is a little bit embarrassing. I've represented Japan a couple of times. The reason I'm here is to promote and expand baseball, so I'm working hard on that. Being called the Dan Carter of baseball is very flattering.”
Aerenga says, “We're very lucky to see players like Naoyuki, it's really nice to have Naoyuki here. I just wish Naoyuki was playing for my team.”
Shimizu is impressed with the quality of teams and players who have also turned up from as far as Australia, the Unites States and Asia.
“Howick-Pakuranga has some pretty big boys. They swing hard. They're well drilled and they have a really good team.”
Shimizu's team is four wins from five games and in a good position to qualify for this weekend's playoffs.