Diamondblacks national team pitcher Jimmy Boyce has been named as the first ever recipient of the Lincoln Holdzkom International Player of the Year at Baseball New Zealand's inaugural national awards ceremony this weekend.
The award, named in memory of former New Zealand Diamondblacks pitcher Lincoln Holdzkom, whose life was tragically cut short in a car accident just prior to Christmas, adds another milestone to a dramatic and tumultuous last few months for the 18-year old Boyce, who pitched for the New Zealand Diamondblacks in February's World Baseball Classic in Sydney, an experience that nearly cost him the chance to complete his senior season for Mt Si High School.
Due to Washington State School regulations, Boyce was forced to choose between playing for his country or finish his high school baseball career at Mt. Si in the northwest corner of the United States. Boyce quickly chose his country, and fittingly picked up the win against a talented team of professionals from the Philippines in Diamondblacks's sole win in Sydney.
Fortunately for Boyce and his teammates and his school appealed the initial decision (which states that a player cannot play with and against professional athletes while still in high school), and won the case-and Boyce was allowed to play again after a three-game stand down period.
Boyce is currently preparing to guide his team to the Washington State Baseball Championships at the plate and on the mound, where he'll feature his 90 mph (145km/hr) fastball and selection of off-speed pitches that have allowed him to be considered one of the top young baseball prospects in the Northwest of the United States.
Boyce hasn't chosen a college yet, but has numerous offers on the table to pick up a highly valued baseball scholarship, something Baseball New Zealand CEO Ryan Flynn says should be a lock for Boyce-if he doesn't choose to sign with a Major League Baseball team.
"Jimmy has come a long way since leaving Auckland to pursue more and stronger baseball competition, and picking up the win against the Philippines in February and his subsequent success during his high school baseball season proved that the move is paying dividends. Jimmy is already one of the top prospects New Zealand has ever produced, and it's going to be enjoyable watching to see how far he can take the game with his talents and determination," Flynn added.
With the incredible growth of the sport in the past 3-4 years across New Zealand, the awards evening was the first time Baseball New Zealand has celebrated its successes and people on a national and international level and in addition to player, coach and team awards, eight stalwarts of the game were awarded life memberships, while the newly created New Zealand Baseball Hall of Fame welcomed its first member.
Canadian-born Ed Mason is regarded as the founder of the modern game of baseball in New Zealand. From his North American beginnings, Ed's love of sport and his joy in seeing young people succeed led him to formally put the sport of baseball on the map of New Zealand sports in 1989, leading the sport's early days with a calm demeanour and sense of humour that helped ensure the game's start was built on good faith-and good baseball.
Life Memberships were awarded to long-time Howick-Pakuranga coach, current Baseball NZ Board Member and Sky TV Chief Executive John Fellet, former Baseball New Zealand President Noel Davies, long-standing Auckland Baseball President Glenn Campbell, West City City Baseball Club stalwart Wayne McCullough, and current umpires Chris Tanner, Keith Wilson, David Sinclair and John Stephney who have each dedicated more than two decades of their lives to the sport in New Zealand in various capacities.
"After a successful fund raising golf day on Friday at Titirangi, the awards and a strategic planning session on Sunday, the weekend will be repeated again next year and for many years to follow," said Ryan Flynn, adding "I believe that following this weekend's events, the game will continue to grow at great pace."
The nation's top U13 players that represented New Zealand last July in Maryland, USA, beating Australia's top players for the first time at any age grade, were recognised as International Team of the Year, while talented Counties shortstop Jason Matthews, who is off to Southeastern College in Iowa to play baseball on a scholarship, was named the country's best U23 baseball player.
National Player of the Year
U13 - Nikau Pouaka-Grego (Christchurch Redbirds)
U15 - Tom Li (North Shore City)
U18 - Elliott Johnstone & Kyle Glogoski (Bayside-Westhaven)
U23 - Jason Matthews (Counties Baseball)
Mens - Andrew Marck (Howick-Pakuranga)
Lincoln Holdzkom International Player of the Year - Jimmy Boyce (Mt Si High School, Seattle, USA)
Coach of the Year
U13 - Toshiki Nakao (North Shore City)
U15 - Sean Ellison (Southern Astros, Christchurch)
U18 - Jamie Wilson (Howick-Pakuranga)
Men's - Randy Yard (Counties Baseball)
Team of the Year
Domestic - North Shore City U15
International - Baseball New Zealand Ripken All Star U13 team
Club of the Year
North Shore City
Kevin Nepia and Daryl Fairclough (Howick-Pakuranga)
Andrew Laird and Elaine Chung (Central City)
Brian Hemera and Lynn Torgerson (Canterbury Baseball)
Brian Faunt (Bayside-Westhaven)
Blair Heeney (Orewa Sharks)
Lisa Nepia (Howick-Pakuranga)
Keiko Fegan (North Shore City)
Caroline Birdsall (North Shore City)
Louise Heeney (Orewa)
Beverley McCabe (Baseball New Zealand)
Rookie of the Year - Iain Stewart
Most Improved - Michael Vukcevic
Balls and Strikes (Consistency) - Bob Poata
Umpire of the Year - Chris Tanner
John Fellet (Howick-Pakuranga)
Glenn Campbell (Auckland Baseball Association)
Wayne McCullough (West City)
Noel Davies (Bayside-Westhaven and Baseball New Zealand)
Keith Wilson (Umpire)
Chris Tanner (Umpire)
David Sinclair (Umpire)
John Stephney (Umpire)
Hall of Fame