Baseball: Maronde carrying Classic hopes

By Dale Budge

Nick Maronde. Photo / AP
Nick Maronde. Photo / AP

New Zealand Diamondblacks pitcher Nick Maronde's 1.8m frame better have strong shoulders as he carries the hopes of the country's entire baseball programme upon them.

The 26-year-old is the only player in the Diamondblacks squad with Major League experience having spent parts of three seasons in the big leagues with the Los Angeles Angels playing alongside former MVPs Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.

The left-hander will lead a young Diamondblacks pitching staff in next week's World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament in Sydney, hoping to qualify for next year's world finals tournament against the best nations in the world.

The Diamondblacks' pitching stocks took a big hit in the lead-up to this tournament when the Pittsburgh Pirates refused to release right-handed reliever John Holdzkom just a month after Holdzkom's older brother Lincoln was killed in a car crash in the US. Both players had significant roles with the side four years ago in Taiwan as the New Zealanders surprisingly made the final of the qualifying tournament.

Maronde says he realises he will be expected to spearhead the New Zealand charge.

"I'll definitely try to help guys out but there are other guys in that locker room that have some experience there as well," Maronde told the Weekend Herald.

"We have a good group of guys there. I think it is a pretty strong team. We have gelled nicely together and it feels like we've been playing for a lot longer than just a week. I think we can make some noise."

Maronde was born in the US and has spent most of his life there but qualifies for New Zealand due to his parents. He spent three years living in Auckland in his teens and has acknowledged the growth of the sport since he was last here.

His major league debut came in 2012 and Maronde says the call-up to the majors was a lifetime in the making.

"It was great - a childhood dream. Ever since I was a little kid, all I wanted to do was become a Major League pitcher."

Maronde was traded to the Cleveland Indians in 2014 and hasn't played in the majors since but he hopes the stint with New Zealand will propel him back this year.

- NZ Herald

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