The New Zealand Diamondblacks coaching staff in this year's World Baseball Classic Qualifier is filled with Major League talent, global experience, and a fondness for New Zealand that has raised the bar for many future national teams.
The outstanding pedigree of manager Chris Woodward's coaches includes Los Angeles Angels third base coach and former Milwaukee Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke (bench coach), Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen coach Josh Bard (hitting coach), Seattle Mariners Minor Leagues coach and former MLB player Brant Brown (base running and infield coach), former Japan and Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) pitcher Naoyuki Shimizu (pitching coach) and former MLB Pitcher D J Carrasco (bullpen coach).
"To me this is a 'dream team' of coaches," said Baseball New Zealand CEO Ryan Flynn about the handpicked staff. "Not only are the coaches world class on every level, but they care about our young men and the future of our national program.
Woodward will now have worked with four of our national teams over a four-year period. Ron signed Te Wera 'Beau' Bishop to a contract with the Brewers when he was out here, and Naoyuki believes enough in our country's baseball future that he moved his family to Auckland to help us build within. We couldn't do any better in our dugout, or any dugout for that matter, I believe."
Flynn's sentiments are echoed by Ron Roenicke who has now been to New Zealand twice and says, "We've got a great team of coaches here, better in many respects than groups I've worked with at the top level.
"I really believe this (Diamondblacks) team also has the playing group that can do well this week," adding that "once the players take the field, we as coaches can only guide and advise them on what to do, as the coaches aren't the ones hitting the ball and pitching from the mound...it's up to them now.
"This country (New Zealand) produces superb athletes and they have great natural ability, and it's our job as coaches to harness that and put all of that positive athletic growth into baseball," said Roenicke and this is something that bullpen coach D J Carrasco agrees with, "I've seen some really natural players both young and old in my two baseball trips to New Zealand and I'm excited at what I and others can do to help this game grow here."
Carrasco spent two months in the country early in 2015 in Wellington and Christchurch and plans are underway to get him back for even longer, something the Texan is keen to do, "We're (with wife Autumn) keen to move here permanently if we have the opportunity, New Zealand's a beautiful country and the people treat us as their own, so yeah, if we can work it out, we're here."
The strength of the coaching team hasn't gone un-noticed by the players either with catcher Connar O'Gorman saying, "I can't believe how Ryan (Flynn) managed to put this group together, it's unbelievable working with guys like Ron Roenicke who've been around the game for so long."
"I've worked with Woody and Bard before with the U21's and it's just great to have not only them but guys like Ron and DJ around to just learn so much more about the game," said O'Gorman, who recently finished the ABL season with eventual runners-up Adelaide. "Losing the final (to Brisbane Bandits) was a big disappointment but I've already put that behind me and can't wait for the WBC to get underway."
It has also been confirmed that the Diamondblacks WBCQ games in Australia will be screened live on one of Sky TV's American sports channels ESPN2, with game one against South Africa starting at 3.00pm NZ time on Thursday.