Kingi steps closer to Black Sox dream

Gisborne teen softballer heads to Australian under-23 championships in Queensland this week.

Gisborne teen softballer heads to Australian under-23 championships in Queensland this week.

XAYVIER KINGI: Will wear the catcher’s mask for the Junior Black Sox at an under-23 tournament in Queensland. Picture by Liam Clayton

WHEN New Zealand’s Black Sox start their world championship campaign in Canada this weekend, a Gisborne teenager will be thinking to himself: “One day, that’ll be me”.

It’s Xayvier Kingi’s dream and one he will move a step closer to in Australia this week.

Kingi is in the New Zealand Junior Black Sox squad to compete in the Australian under-23 championships and u23 invitational in Queensland, starting tomorrow.

The 17-year-old catcher was at a New Zealand under-19 wider training squad camp in Upper Hutt in early June when he was told he had made the Junior Black Sox squad for the u23 tournament being held at Redlands near Brisbane.

“I was pretty shocked at first but felt pretty excited afterwards.”

Kingi is part of a 19-man squad, with former Black Sox member Thomas Makea the head coach.

He is certain to get game time and when he does, he will create history as the first Tairawhiti player to represent New Zealand at this level.

Kingi is aware of that and is extremely proud to be the first player from here “to experience the real thing”.

New Zealand will have two teams at the champs — the Major Black Sox (under-23s) and the Junior Black Sox (u19s).

They face each other in the opening game tomorrow, then have games against state sides Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia.

Teams play each other twice over the four days.

The tournament is part of the Junior Black Sox build-up towards the world u19 championships in Canada in July next year. And Kingi wants to be a part of that.

“That’s my goal. To help us get that gold medal.”

Runners-up

The Junior Black Sox have been runners-up at the past two world champs (to Argentina in 2014 and to Japan in 2016).

In a letter to Kingi congratulating him on his selection, Softball NZ event and national teams manager Eugene Gilbert wrote: “To be selected to represent your country is an honour for any sportsperson, and you follow in the footsteps of many great softballers.

“Your selection is a reward for the hard work and effort you have put in so far. However, the real work has just begun.

“As a member of a New Zealand team the challenge is to become better and to maintain your position in the team.

“We encourage you to push the bar out and see how good you can become.

“As a squad member you now have access to world-class coaching and some excellent support and resources. Your job is to take the support and assistance on board and use it to your advantage to become a more skilful player.”

Kingi is an example of the success of development programmes. These include the International Softball Academy, which exposes young players to elite coaching and overseas experience.

He has been playing the game since he was nine, his enthusiasm and talent fostered, encouraged and enhanced by his family and Tairawhiti Softball Association.

“The greatest joy I get out of softball is that all my family love this game as well,” he said in a Herald story this year.

Meanwhile, a special dinner was held on Friday night for Xayvier and three Gisborne girls who are in the International Softball Academy under-17 girls’ New Zealand team — Ana Houia, Reace McBeth and Alex Smith-Tuhou.

The team are competing at the u17 girls’ international softball tournament at Blacktown International Sportspark softball centre in Sydney from July 21 to 23.

WHEN New Zealand’s Black Sox start their world championship campaign in Canada this weekend, a Gisborne teenager will be thinking to himself: “One day, that’ll be me”.

It’s Xayvier Kingi’s dream and one he will move a step closer to in Australia this week.

Kingi is in the New Zealand Junior Black Sox squad to compete in the Australian under-23 championships and u23 invitational in Queensland, starting tomorrow.

The 17-year-old catcher was at a New Zealand under-19 wider training squad camp in Upper Hutt in early June when he was told he had made the Junior Black Sox squad for the u23 tournament being held at Redlands near Brisbane.

“I was pretty shocked at first but felt pretty excited afterwards.”

Kingi is part of a 19-man squad, with former Black Sox member Thomas Makea the head coach.

He is certain to get game time and when he does, he will create history as the first Tairawhiti player to represent New Zealand at this level.

Kingi is aware of that and is extremely proud to be the first player from here “to experience the real thing”.

New Zealand will have two teams at the champs — the Major Black Sox (under-23s) and the Junior Black Sox (u19s).

They face each other in the opening game tomorrow, then have games against state sides Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia.

Teams play each other twice over the four days.

The tournament is part of the Junior Black Sox build-up towards the world u19 championships in Canada in July next year. And Kingi wants to be a part of that.

“That’s my goal. To help us get that gold medal.”

Runners-up

The Junior Black Sox have been runners-up at the past two world champs (to Argentina in 2014 and to Japan in 2016).

In a letter to Kingi congratulating him on his selection, Softball NZ event and national teams manager Eugene Gilbert wrote: “To be selected to represent your country is an honour for any sportsperson, and you follow in the footsteps of many great softballers.

“Your selection is a reward for the hard work and effort you have put in so far. However, the real work has just begun.

“As a member of a New Zealand team the challenge is to become better and to maintain your position in the team.

“We encourage you to push the bar out and see how good you can become.

“As a squad member you now have access to world-class coaching and some excellent support and resources. Your job is to take the support and assistance on board and use it to your advantage to become a more skilful player.”

Kingi is an example of the success of development programmes. These include the International Softball Academy, which exposes young players to elite coaching and overseas experience.

He has been playing the game since he was nine, his enthusiasm and talent fostered, encouraged and enhanced by his family and Tairawhiti Softball Association.

“The greatest joy I get out of softball is that all my family love this game as well,” he said in a Herald story this year.

Meanwhile, a special dinner was held on Friday night for Xayvier and three Gisborne girls who are in the International Softball Academy under-17 girls’ New Zealand team — Ana Houia, Reace McBeth and Alex Smith-Tuhou.

The team are competing at the u17 girls’ international softball tournament at Blacktown International Sportspark softball centre in Sydney from July 21 to 23.

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