Diamond, heart or club - it's easy to tell Karim Crawford has spades of the stuff when it boils down to his love for softball or baseball.

But, you see, that clarity becomes a little blurred when Crawford steps up to take his mark from the home plate of either code.

In softball, the 12-year-old from Hastings struggles to visualise the trajectory of the ball (305mm circumference) once it leaves his bat, so to speak.

Not so when he pings that 229mm circumference sphere into orbit with his aluminium equivalent in baseball.


"I really like softball but then I realised there's no money in it," says the Heretaunga Intermediate pupil.

Frankly it's as sobering an analysis as one will ever receive from a relatively uncorrupted mind in any sporting situation, without critics taking the moral high ground on the impact of a money-driven society.

In Crawford's Utopian world, baseball and its more rampant offspring, softball, in New Zealand would be sipping from the same nourishing chalice in a bid to quench the thirst of budding talent like him to recognise their worth.

For that reason, the year 8 pupil is embarking on a mission in Hawke's Bay schools to spread the gospel on baseball, which will culminate in open days in summer for those keen to give it a go.

Crawford caught the baseball bug only last November and he is already in the New Zealand under-13 team to tour the United States in August, albeit as a non-travelling reserve.

Whether he will be called up to travel with the 15-member national age-group side or not as one of eight non-travelling players, should someone withdraw, the schoolboy is banking on making the cut for the under-13 development team chalked in to travel overseas at the end of the year.

"The training is huge so it'll set me up for the future," he says.

It goes without saying his heart is sold on diamonds (baseball) but he is quick to heap plaudits on his Flaxmere Softball Club where father Matthew Crawford is a member.


Says mother Stacey Bacon: "We can't thank Flaxmere club enough."

That gratitude extends to Softball Hawke's Bay for lending the province's age-group side gear to wear to baseball tournaments.

Crawford, who started playing softball three years ago after going to watch sister Kylah play T-ball, is indebted to Flaxmere stalwart Luke Herrick for asking him to have a hit.

For someone who enjoys playing chess, his mother says her son takes that strategic mind to both the diamonds to read the game with aplomb. He enjoys taking on the arm of opposition fielders in sneaking from one base to another.

The former Twyford School pupil is an adept batter who can occupy first, second base or outfield positions in softball although his speciality is shortstop.

Ironically he was selected as a catcher in baseball - the bloke who is covered from head to toe behind a batter in wicketkeeper fashion - based on his school team statistics.

"I did all right," says Crawford, who also hit a home run, which enabled two other runners on the bases to run home when the first Bay Uner-13 team competed at the United Airlines New Zealand U13 Ripken Championship in Rosedale Park, Auckland, from April 6-9.

He was one of only six batters to strike home runs in the tourney.

Heretaunga Intermediate approached Crawford to play baseball in term four last year but he had politely declined after consulting his mother.

"I originally said no because I had too many commitments," he says, as his mother elaborates on how he was making the grades for age-group representative rugby and touch teams as well as engaging in CrossFit.

But it was the clash between softball and baseball training that prompted Herrick to invite Crawford to the premier grade training with the men and three-women composite team who claimed an emphatic title in March after returning to the elite grade for the first time in decades.

But Heretaunga Intermediate team were shy of a player one day so teacher/coach Sophia Maui asked the senior B men's Flaxmere team member to rescue the school side and he did, playing at Tareha Reserve against Taradale Intermediate and two teams from Flaxmere Primary School.

The hand-eye co-ordination and other such raw skills meant Crawford, who also played Fun in the Sun softball last summer, thrived in the crossover to baseball.

"I picked up a baseball and threw it over the boundary," he says.

Just as he did with Herrick and fellow under-13 Flaxmere coach Darryl Tamati, the schoolboy was all eyes and ears when it came to sponging off ideas from his mentors.

On April 19, Crawford attended trials in Wellington alongside 50 other boys and girls. Similar trials were staged in Christchurch and Auckland.

At the Auckland tourney, Baseball NZ chief executive Ryan Flynn revealed the code was trying to entice Japanese investors here.

"American scouts are coming to sign players," says Crawford, including the San Diego Padres - although his team are Boston Red Sox and his favourite player is Xander Bogaerts, a shortstop who can bat in Major League Baseball (MLB).

In the next step up, to under-15s, a raised portable mound will not do, so HB Baseball intend to approach Hastings District Council for a permanent venue.

Crawford, a clued-up scholar, is hoping baseball establishes itself in the Bay to a level where boys and girls will be able to secure scholarships to the United States.

New Zealand are ranked No26 in the baseball world after they were not officially ranked four years ago.