United States-based Black Sox pitcher Jeremy Manley will play for Hawke's Bay at softball's National Fastpitch Championship in North Harbour next month.
Hawke's Bay manager Craig Waterhouse was understandably ecstatic to have secured Manley's signature for the country's elite tournament to be played from December 6-9.
"I regard Jeremy as one of the top three pitchers in the world.
"If New Zealand makes the final and wins next year's World Series it will be because of what Jeremy has done," Waterhouse said.
A Black Sox player since 2006, Manley is an older brother of top Hawke's Bay pitcher Regan Manley who is aiming to join his brother in the Black Sox side for the March World Series in North Harbour. Waterhouse rates Regan Manley as the No 1 New Zealand-based pitcher in contention for the Black Sox.
"Regan has played in two tournaments already this summer and won them both," Waterhouse said.
He was referring to the fact Regan plays for Christchurch United as well as Maraenui Pumas and the Christchurch side have won tournaments in Christchurch and Nelson this season.
With such firepower on the mound, it will be a surprise if Hawke's Bay don't improve on last summer's fourth placing at the NFC.
Waterhouse's son Jordan, who played in the 2011 NFC but missed last summer's, former Junior Black Sox utility Jovaan Hanley and his Saints clubmate Tiaki Tewheoro are others on the Hawke's Bay roster who are all capable of pitching at this level if required.
Another feature of the Bay team is the return of enigmatic former Junior Black Sox catcher Grant Dean, who played for Waikato at last summer's NFC. Dean is back in the Bay and playing for the Fast Pitch club.
Others capable of catching for the Manley brothers in the Bay side are Dean's Fast Pitch clubmate Te Rangi Chadwick and Pumas Karaitiana Aranui.
The Hawke's Bay NFC squad will form the nucleus of the Hawke's Bay Selection which will take on the Black Sox at Akina Park in Hastings on November 18.
Co-coaches Corey Tamati and Scotty Mitchell intend to add several more players to their squad for the Black Sox doubleheader as they anticipate losing a couple of their 15-strong NFC squad to the Black Sox team who will make an internal tour this month as part of their World Series buildup.
Unbeaten teams Fast Pitch and GSB Building Saints will meet in the feature Hawke's Bay premier men's match tomorrow.
It's a huge weekend for Fast Pitch, who will meet Poneke Kilbirnie and Miramar on Sunday when they play in the Wellington-based intercity competition.
Napier Vikings and Pumas will chase their first win of the season in tomorrow's other premier match.
Hawke's Bay squad
Jeremy Manley, Regan Manley, Jordan Waterhouse, Tiaki Tewheoro, Te Rangi Chadwick, Grant Dean, Curtis Huata, Jovaan Hanley, Rongo Rapaea, Jesse Little, Kane Herbert, Luke Woon, Horowai Puketapu, Karaitiana Aranui, Puhi Rapaea.