Black Sox star Brad Rona's defection to baseball has stunned the softball community in Wanganui where the double world champion first learned the game.
Late on Monday night, Softball New Zealand announced that 35-year-old Rona, his 17-year-old son, Pita, and a third top international, Brad Enoka, had withdrawn from the Black Sox squad.
"The three players have decided to put all their energy into pursuing a career in baseball," the sport's governing body said.
Brad Rona - who made his name with Wanganui's Aces club before heading to North Harbour - Pita and Enoka played baseball for West City Metro in Auckland 10 days ago in direct contravention of the instructions of Black Sox manager Doug Golightly.
Grant Clark, who coached Brad as a youngster at the Aces, said the news had come out of the blue.
"Brad has had a great innings with the Black Sox, but Pita is just beginning his international career and it would be a shame if he doesn't pursue it."
Clark acknowledged that the financial prospects in baseball were a temptation.
"There's money overseas in softball, but it's nothing like what you can earn in baseball.
"Pita might have a future in baseball in the United States, but it is pretty hard to get into. Travis Wilson is the only guy I know of who has gone from softball in New Zealand to make it in baseball in the US."
The three rebel softballers were summoned to a meeting at Waitakere Bears Softball Club on Monday night to explain themselves. Rather than disciplinary action by Softball NZ, the meeting ended with the trio quitting the Black Sox and turning their full attention to a major international baseball championship scheduled for Auckland next year.
"I'm surprised it's come to this," Clark said. "So long as playing baseball doesn't interfere with the Black Sox schedule, I don't see it as a problem."
Wanganui association secretary Lindsay Edwards said the Ronas' walkout was a shock.
"Brad will be a big loss to the sport, but he's had a good run at softball and now he's trying something else.
"I knew he'd had a look at baseball and now he's going to give his son a good look at it," Edwards said.
"It will be no hardship for them to switch to baseball and you can make a lot of money at it."
Yesterday, Black Sox coach Eddie Kohlhase said: "These players want to look at a career in baseball so we wish them every success with that."
He said the Black Sox would be concentrating on regaining their world championship crown in Auckland in March 2013.
"Our aim is to have 17 fully-focused athletes intent on winning the world title."
The Ronas and Enoka were in the NZ squad to play in Australia at the end of the month.
There have been suggestions that softball is coming under threat from baseball and Golightly was reported as saying he had explicitly put baseball on the banned list because of the number of Black Sox who'd expressed interest in playing the sport.
A powerful hitter and star infielder, Brad Rona has been Black Sox vice-captain and was part of the world championship-winning teams of 2000 and 2004.
He has played regularly in the US and last year was part of the team that won America's top tournament, the International Softball Congress.
He and son Pita, an up-and-coming pitcher, created history earlier this year when they became the first father and son to represent New Zealand at softball.
Pita started learning the game in Wanganui as a three-year-old before the family headed to Auckland. They will now see how far they can go at baseball but, if that doesn't work out, they could still be back in the softball fold for the 2013 world championships.