Softball: Notable returns to Black Sox

Four former players have been recalled to the New Zealand men's softball team for the series against Samoa next month.

The most notable feature in Black Sox coach Eddie Kohlhase's squad of 17 named today is the return of infielder Travis Wilson and outfielder Gus Leger.

There are two debutants -- Auckland's Michael Cameron and Corey Matakatea of Wellington -- while Darren Davies and Daniel Milne have also earned recalls.

Wilson last turned out for the Black Sox in 1996 when the team claimed world championship gold.

Following that he took up a professional baseball contract in America where he remained until last year. Signed as a 19-year-old, Wilson spent eight years with the Atlanta Braves trying unsuccessfully to break into baseball's major leagues.

"Travis is part of our long term planning and we are easing him back into our environment, he is one of our leaders and he is leading by example in terms of training on and off the diamond," Kolhase said.

Current Samoan captain and outfielder Leger last played for New Zealand in 1998 and since then he has captained Samoa at the 2004 world championships while also playing rugby for Tonga at the 2003 World Cup.

"We are very aware that we have got a pretty intensive international programme ahead of us over the next nine months and the Samoan series is a stepping stone to kick it off," Kolhase said.

"We have selected the 17 athletes for this series with the whole year in mind and we are looking to build depth in key positions."

Infielder Cameron, 20, is the youngest in the squad and wins his place at the expense of Brad Rona who was not considered for selection due to injury.

Cameron joins his brother Thomas in the team and is seen by Kohlhase as a utility infielder.

Outfielder Matakatea who has been on the fringes of the team in recent years, making training squads but never before the playing squad.

Canterbury first baseman Davies last played international softball in 2002 when the Black Sox toured North America.

Kohlhase said Davies had missed subsequent selection as softball greats such as Jarrad Martin and Mark Sorenson were picked ahead of him. But with Martin moving into the pitcher's role and with the retirement of Sorenson, Davies has played his way back into the team.

Canterbury outfielder Milne debuted for the Black Sox on the 1999 tour of North America and last played in 2003 during a home international series.

The 17-man squad will assemble in Auckland next week ahead of the four-match series to be played in Auckland and North Harbour on December 3-4.

New Zealand squad:

Pitchers: Jarrad Martin (captain, North Harbour), Marty Grant (Wellington), Thomas Cameron (Auckland), Tane Richardson (Wellington).

Catchers: Patrick Shannon (Auckland), Lyndon Andrew (Auckland).

Infield: Darren Davies (Canterbury), Travis Wilson (Auckland), Steven Ratu (Wellington), Nathan Nukunuku, (Auckland), Michael Cameron (Auckland).

Outfield: Stacy McLean (Wellington), Thomas Makea (Wellington), Gus Leger (Auckland), Cory Matakatea (Wellington), Fabian Makea (Wellington), Daniel Milne (Canterbury).

- NZPA

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