Former Japanese star helping New Zealand baseball

It is always good to see that there are people who intent to help other countries to develop the game of baseball. In the eighties there was a Dutch group, called the Trailblazers, that helped to develop the game in Eastern Europe, back then still under communist rule.

After a career that brought him to independent teams in the US and teams in Mexico and Puerto Rico, a former Japanese player, Toma Irokawa, moved to Iran to develop the game overthere. A pretty though task when you know that the hardliners among the leaders of that country are still very anti-American and rather keep any US influence out of the country.

Curtis Granderson has promoted the game throughout the world as he visited New Zealand and several African countries, trying to teach young kids the basics of the game.

Another fine example is former NPB player Naoyuki Shimizu. Shimizu played in the NPB for Chiba Lotte Marines and the Yokohama Bay Stars from 2000 through 2013, even though he did not play in 2013 because of a knee injury. After battling an injury he retired in March 2014. Shimizu’s career numbers with the Marines were 93 wins against 85 losses, with a career 4.02 ERA, tossing 38 complete games and nine shutouts.

In 2013 he saw team New Zealand play in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier in Taiwan. He was struck by the enthusiasm that the team displayed and wanted to help to develop the game over there. He decided to move to Auckland with his family and it appears to settle in very well. He is now the assistant general manager for the national body, as well as pitching coach for the New Zealand Diamondblacks in Sydney for the World Baseball Classic Qualifier that will start coming Thursday.

Shimizu said that he was happy with what he saw from the young pitching staff in the practice game vs South Africa. Despite the 9-2 loss, he saw improvement and perseverance. In the 18 months that he is with the team, they improved a lot.

According to Shimizu, he is planning to stay in New Zealand for at least five years. He wants to help the country’s pitching stock rise and help to develop baseball in New Zealand as a whole.

I tip my cap to people like this.

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