Cricket: Black Caps' throw first pitch in MLB game

FLORIDA - The Black Caps could be throwing curve balls when they face off against Sri Lanka in their Twenty20 cricket series in Florida this weekend, having trained with Major League Baseball (MLB) team the Florida Marlins today.

Daniel Vettori and Jacob Oram were also given an opportunity to prove that their cricketing skills could make them stars of baseball, throwing the first pitches before the Marlins' game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The team's former fielding coach Travis Wilson had contacted Oram to say he wanted them to throw as straight as they could or it would be a bad look for his coaching. And he would have been pleased with the players' efforts.

"The leftie wheels and deals... that was a piece of cake, right down the middle," the match commentator said of Vettori's pitch.

And of Oram's?

"A perfect first pitch," he said.

New Zealand coach Mark Greatbatch said the opportunity to train and talk shop with a MLB team had been a dream come true.

"As in any different sport there's an opportunity to learn and I think all of us have watched baseball as young kids and a lot of us enjoy it, so it's just nice to be here and have an opportunity to do it. It is unbelievable really," he said.

Bowler Tim Southee said it had been a great experience, and he was given a bat by Marlins' opening pitcher Josh Johnson.

"That's something I'll be able to keep forever and not give it to any of the baseball nuffies in the team," he said.

Vettori said players and coaching staff had been able to exchange notes with Marlins players, and hoped both sides had found it a valuable experience.

"There's a lot of similarities between cricket and baseball and it's one of America's favourite sports and a lot of the guys just really enjoy watching it," he said.

It wasn't only the cricketers learning a thing or two. Baseball All-Star Hanley Ramirez was shocked to discover that cricket fielders did not wear gloves.

"It's crazy, I read they broke fingers and all this stuff, you know, it's not good," he said.

But he was confident he would be able to hit a cricket ball a long way.

"Yeah, I think I would. It's a lighter bat and it's way bigger."

The Black Caps will face Sri Lanka in two exhibition Twenty20 matches on Sunday and Monday (NZT) at the Central Broward Country Regional Park Cricket Stadium in Lauderhill, Florida.

- NZPA

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