A meteoric rise has had Te Puke's Chaise Austin selected to play his chosen sport overseas.

After just one season of playing softball, Chaise has been selected to travel to North America with the New Zealand-based International Softball Academy's under 13 side. He will be one of five Western Bay softballers playing overseas this winter.

He is now a student at Te Puke High School, but began playing softball with the Te Puke Intermediate School team that travelled to Tauranga for game days over the summer.

Mum Angela didn't at first know Chaise had signed up to play.

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''It was quite funny, I didn't even know he was playing softball until I got this random text one Saturday morning saying 'game on' and I said 'what game?' and I had to shoot over to Tauranga.

Chaise says the opportunity to play popped up and he decided to do it. He also plays rugby and used to play football.

"What I like about it is the way that you bat and all the new skills that you learn and being
able to play a sport that you are not really used to," he says.

Before he started playing he would never watch baseball on TV, but does now.

He will get to experience the real thing while in the United States with a Los Angeles Angels game part of the itinerary.

Chaise is a specialist fielder, saying he is good at catching and has a good arm, but also puts lots of practice into batting — he likes to just "smash it".

His family have links to the game as both his uncle Ross and grandmother on Angela's side, Rose, are former players. Ross and dad TJ help Chaise with his training.
It was while watching a game in Tauranga that Angela was asked about Chaise.

"I got hit up and asked who he was and then got asked if he would trial for the reps. He was keen for that and then he made the [Western Bay of Plenty] under 13s."

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There were scouts from the academy, which is part of Softball New Zealand, at an Auckland tournament and he was invited to be part of the tour.

"It's all been full-on since then," says Angela.

Chaise met news of being selected with disbelief.

" I thought they had sent [the letter] to the wrong person," he says.

Western Bay of Plenty under 13 coach Harriet Watson says Chaise has a good attitude and is willing to learn "on and off the diamond".

"I chucked him into a catcher's position that he'd never played before and he did an awesome job and then whatever position I gave him, he did it.

"I'm really proud of him and all the other softballers [on the trip] from the Bay of Plenty.

"They will be doing training and playing games and it's going to be big for them across the board. I think they might be overwhelmed by the sport in the US.

After flying to Los Angles, training, going to an LA Angels game and visiting Disneyland, the squad will fly to Canada for more coaching, exhibition games and to play in a three day tournament in Saskatchewan.

To help pay for the trip, Chaise has been fundraising. His rugby club, Te Puke Sports, have run a raffle and he has been helping out with lawn mowing, firewood and bake sales.

Chaise hopes his success can persuade others to take up the game.

He says it is a good sport and he would like one day to represent New Zealand.

Angela says that with the coaching he will get in North America there is a good chance he will continue to be selected for age group squads.

She says she was surprised when she first saw the game played at the top level.

''I thought it was not a basic sport, but quite simple - but it's actually quite technical. Watching the senior ones, it's a fast sport.''

The Western Bay players went to Auckland to see the Black Sox play in an international tournament.

''They were pitching at 110km/h, and that was just in training. Watching the game, I couldn't see the ball.''

But she says the players are accessible and, while Chaise loves rugby, he is competing with far fewer players to gain recognition in softball.

The family is looking for opportunities to fundraise for the trip. Anyone able to help can
contact Angela on angela.austin22@gmail.com