Former Major League Baseball player and scout for the LA Dodgers DJ Carrasco is accustomed to playing in sold out stadiums around the United States.
As a pitcher for the New York Mets, Chicago White Sox and Arizona Cardinals and other MLB teams he knows how to wow a crowd.
Last weekend that crowd was a group of Tauranga youth players who attended a free coaching clinic at Papamoa's Gordon Spratt Reserve.
It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for kids ranging in age from 5 to 16, baseball newbies or team players alike. Thanks to Tauranga City Baseball and Baseball NZ, Carrasco's high-profile coaching clinic was open to all children across the Tauranga region.
"We got DJ here last minute so we didn't have much of a chance to publicise the event but ended up with a great turnout of kids eager to learn from him," Tauranga City Baseball president Shane Woolley said.
About 36 boys and girls braved the heat of a Sunday afternoon to learn the steps of pitching in the three-hour clinic. From the right stance, to the ball and glove positioning, to the correct way to throw, Carrasco held a captivated audience with his down-to-earth and kid-friendly demeanour. He also signed autographs for excited fans.
Parent Carrie Brown was thrilled her son Chase was participating.
"It's an amazing chance to learn tips from a baseball great. Who would have thought my eight-year-old would get coaching from a pro in Papamoa?" she said.
One of the highlights was the question and answer sessions, with kids asking fun questions like "how often did you practice as a kid?" and "what other sports do you like?".
Without hesitation Carrasco answered "eating. Is eating a sport? Yep, then eating".
Tauranga City Baseball is in its third year as a growing club and is eager to entice more youth to the sport that is gaining popularity around New Zealand.
"T-ball and Rookie ball for the younger set has some good numbers and potential, however the Under-13s and 16s could use more players to round out the team," Woolley said.
Boys or girls interested in trying the sport and joining the club can head to the Tauranga City Baseball Facebook page for more information.