Nothing destroys the soul more in sport than teams belonging to powerhouse clubs walloping the daylights out of inferior counterparts catering for those who aren't good enough to make the cut.

If they are children's outfits then the mental scarring can be a long-term one that presumably can turn them off organised physical activities for the rest of their lives.

That is what has prompted Baseball Hawke's Bay to embrace a draft system as it tries to find a footing for its code in the province to avoid falling into the trap of nurturing the best and ignoring the rest.

"A draft system allows our coaches to pick the best from the top level and continue down through to the second, third picks so because of that it creates even-balanced teams," says Terra Groner who was appointed Baseball HB Association president at a meeting on Queen's Birthday weekend early this month.


Groner says the yearly regional draft system fosters the growth of leaders, discourages cliques, encourages learning from different levels of coaching styles, fairness and a sense of inclusiveness.

It reduces anxiety levels during trials because everyone will be placed in a team for equal opportunity.

"You have stronger members in each team for leadership while the rest of them will be learning from those who have the skills," says the mother whose 13-year-old son Kyle belongs to about 50 members playing in a non-paying code here.

The trials will be staged in September after the membership drive ends in August.

Baseball season will be from September to November but Groner says the intention is to carry on throughout the year not only because the youngsters can't get enough of it but also continuity in learning.

"It's creating that community and a playtime together where we all end up bonding. I call them all my kids because literally I'm with them all the time."

Chicago-born Groner, husband Fritz, St John's College pupil Kyle and 10-year-old daughter Kaia arrived here in June 2015 after embarking on a global journey of discovery from Los Angeles before dropping anchor in New Zealand.

"It reminded us here of the United States almost 25 years ago when all that craziness wasn't going on. We don't have to worry about safety here," she says, after settling in Napier.


Groner picked up where Farley Keenan, of Hastings, left in trying to create a pathway for Kyle to achieve his Major League Baseball (MLB) dream.

"This turned into something bigger than just him. It is now about all the kids who want to play and dream big. And dream big they can with local, regional, national and overseas opportunities."

In Baseball HB's crusade, they enlighten prospects of the number talent scouts and former MLB players in New Zealand supporting growth.

"This never happens in an average town in America, let alone New Zealand. It is a grand opportunity Baseball NZ has created for all."

The Groners had noticed how other codes - such as cricket, netball, rugby, soccer - had "heavy all stars" gravitating to one team thus generating apathy among others lacking that sort of pedigree wondering why they should bother turning up for competitions when the result was obvious.

"We don't want that in our environment. We want them to be extremely close in numbers ... to up their skills through play and equal opportunity to grow."

Groner says parents are reluctant to put their children into codes "because they know they are going to be smashed by the other ones".

Under their one Baseball HB umbrella that will not be an issue.

Negating the need to put emphasis on trials will mean children won't have to develop an inferiority complex through rejection.

"It's not that you're picked because you're the best or that you don't have any skills yet. It's about building individual teams that are well balanced."

With 11 youngsters returning from a baseball tournament in Auckland recently, Groner says they can build just as many teams because "they can be evenly spread" in a buddy system where the skilled player becomes the beacon.

Baseball HB members aim to approach schools to spread the word through their assemblies, followed up on a Sunday with a "Have A Go" session at Akina Park, Hastings. This Sunday will be the first one from 1pm.

The code is working in harmony with softball and are amicably sharing the Akina Park and Tareha Reserve venues in consultation with Hastings District and Napier City councils.

"We encourage anyone who wants to be an MLB player to go play softball and vice versa because it's more play and the two codes are very similar although there are a few differences that cause adjustments."

However, plans are under way to identify and develop a proper-sized venue because softball arenas allow for 20m diamonds whereas baseball requires 30m ones for youngsters who turn 13.

Baseball HB has held informal talks with councils but the goal is to establish it within two years.

"Baseball NZ has been amazing in getting MLB players to create opportunities," she says, adding by building here people won't have to travel to Auckland.