College Sport: Rising star chasing US dream

By Campbell Burnes

Talented baseballer hitting books in hope of landing coveted college scholarship.
Jason Matthews says the staff at Alfriston College have been hugely supportive of his goal to play major league baseball. Picture / Brett Phibbs
Jason Matthews says the staff at Alfriston College have been hugely supportive of his goal to play major league baseball. Picture / Brett Phibbs

Jason Matthews is not getting too far ahead of himself.

The 19-year-old Alfriston College student is probably the most promising baseballer in the country, and is keen to land a US college scholarship in the near future.

Matthews has already had a taste of the Diamond Blacks' national team environment and, while that is on the backburner as they have a sparse programme, he is keen to link up with them again in the future to gain more international exposure.

A short stop, Matthews has a strong, accurate arm for firing out runners at first base and is improving his batting. But he is clear about his current work-ons.

"I need to work on my speed, so agility training and speed work are big for me."

Matthews has his head in the books at the moment, as he attempts to gain enough credits for a possible shot at US college ball later this year.

"The school [Alfriston] have been really supportive. They are pushing me to get my credits, so I can pursue something. I need to thank a lot of teachers here for helping me out."

Matthews was already showing talent in the softball ranks when he started at Alfriston in Year 9. Many of the young guys he played with and against formed a club team now known as Counties Baseball. You might have heard of them. They won their first national title in March and Matthews was in the thick of it as MVP and best hitter at the three-day tournament in Pakuranga.

"Baseball is more technical than softball," Matthews said. "In softball, you can just go out and hit a ball, but in baseball you need technique and there are more fundamentals. It's harder, but has a better outcome."

The experience with the Diamond Blacks, after having played for New Zealand at under-17 and under-18 level at February's World Baseball Classic, has given him further drive.

"It was a privilege to get on the field and play with some top players from around New Zealand and some who came from the States. They play high-level ball."

Matthews is already coming up with some big plays, and knows the importance of marketing himself. He has a Facebook page set up, replete with videos and information, and has just launched a clothing range. But Matthews really put his name out there last year at a training camp in Phoenix, Arizona, when he attracted the attention of MLB scouts.

"My big goal is to make MLB, but the short-term goal is to make it to a US college," he said.

Family is a powerful motivating force. He lives with his sister in Papakura and his older sibling has watched over him ever since he lost both parents to cancer when he was barely old enough to start school. One day he would love to repay her.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 24 Oct 2016 21:04:11 Processing Time: 523ms