3.00pm



Champion softballer Marty Grant is stepping down from the pitching mound at the end of this season.



The Nelson-based Black Sox player yesterday announced he would retire from all levels of the game after playing for Wellington club Poneke Kilbirnie at next month's club championships in Invercargill.



Grant, who played 90 games for the Black Sox but missed this month's world championships victory because of injury, will be remembered as one of the game's greats.

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His international career started when the Black Sox toured Canada in 1990 and had numerous highlights.



Grant was part of the Black Sox when they won the world championships in the United States in 1996 and returned to pitch a no-hitter in the final to win a second world title in South Africa in 2000.



"I still remember the first time I played for them," Grant recalled.



"It was an exhibition game in Vancouver and I was pitching to Mark Sorenson, I can still remember the butterflies.



"The 1992 world champs were very big for me, too, pitching with great players like Chubb Tangaroa and Michael White.



"Then, in Michigan in 1996 we won and all the pitching staff were on fire. I think we only gave up two runs in the whole tournament.



"When I was told Chubb wasn't going to be able to pitch in 2000 and Michael White was gone, it was my turn to step up. Pitching a no-hitter in the final was very special."



Although Grant, 37, was prevented from playing for the Black Sox as they recorded their hat-trick of world titles, he still made a significant contribution to their success.



He remained with the team to provide invaluable input as a member of the Black Sox' technical staff.



"I've enjoyed what's happened over the last two weeks and it taught me a lot about myself.



"Sure I was disappointed not to be playing, but the game's more than just about that. It's about helping each other and the camaraderie."



Grant said his decision to retire had been influenced by a number of factors, including the arrival of his second child Cooper last month.



He acknowledged his age was also a consideration.



"I've had a bit of time to reflect and I realised I wanted to be able to contribute to the well-being and future of my family.



"We've just had a child and I'm really looking forward to being part of the family and the challenges that brings.



"And I don't think the Black Sox need a 43-year-old pitcher on the mound in 2009.



"There were a handful of over-40s in Christchurch but to be honest I didn't see them standing out."



As well as family life, Grant is looking forward to continuing his day job as pitching director for New Zealand Softball.



That role has been an integral part of the coaching programme that has taken the Black Sox to the top of the softballing world.



"I've seen how the team have progressed and developed over the years.



"Now it's one of the best in the world and we need to keep working to keep it there.



"I'm fortunate to have a chance to share my experience and technical knowledge through the coaching programmes.



"I don't know if I'm suited to coaching a team so I'll do what I can."



Grant said he had no regrets in a top class career that included spending 14 seasons playing in the US.



There had been sacrifices but these had been made easier with the support of his family and friends.



"I've had great support from my wife and family and people in Nelson, they've all been great.



"It's been a fairytale career for me, I've been lucky to play at that level for so long."



- NZPA