Many of the country's young softball players are preparing for the various age-grade nationals taking place throughout the new year. For two young Māori players, it is another step to realising their dreams.
Softball is a big part of Jayden McCabe-Priestley's life. He was six years old when he first played the game and hasn't looked back.
"I like playing softball because it's a fun game to play. You can just meet new people, the game itself is a good game people under rate it," he says.
He is now 15 years old and McCabe-Priestly is playing in the Under 19 grade, but he doesn't let that age gap affect his game. "Just look at them as the same as you. You know, the size of them doesn't mean anything and just go hard, play like you always play," he says.
Tuwharetoa and Tainui's Izaya Mariu-Apiata was selected for the U17 ISA team that toured Germany last year. It was an eye-opening experience for him. He says that while in Germany they got to see a building Adolf Hitler once occupied, which he describes as frightening. However, the pleasing thing for him was his team walked away as tournament champions, winning 5 games in Europe,
McCabe-Priestley also earned national honours last year, after gaining selection in the Development Sox U15 team that entered an U17 competition in Mackay, Australia last year where the young side finished second. "It was a hard tournament, but all the boys pushed hard and yeah we got a successful result."
Having had a taste of higher honours, they both want to continue that long into the future, McCabe-Priestley is hopeful in 10 years time. "I'm in a Black Sox team travelling the world seeing new things," while Mariu-Apiata says that with hard work they can realise their dreams.
The two young up and comers will both represent Counties-Manukau at the National U18 tournament in Christchurch at the end of this month.