New Zealand softball legend Chubb Tangaroa returned to his roots this week as an inaugural inductee to the Horowhenua Walk of Fame.
The 58-year-old allowed himself a quick trip down memory lane as he waited for a coffee, not far from where a new plaque that bears his name now sits on the Levin sidewalk.
"Everything I learnt was from here. I've got fond memories of Levin. This town is my home and always will be, even though I am living in Hawke's Bay now," he said.
Tangaroa took time to take a drive past the house in Meadowvale Drive that he grew up in, which jogged memories of playing softball as a youngster in a paddock behind his house.
That "paddock" is now Waiopehu College. It was where he and his brothers, Willie and Mac, and other neighbourhood kids honed their skills.
"There was a gate at the back fence. We would play anything, though ... rugby, basketball, tennis, soccer, long jump ... that was our sports academy," he said.
There was hardly any softball around when he was born, but its popularity exploded within a generation, with a vibrant club scene taking hold in a few shorts years.
Tangaroa said a big driver behind softball's emergence in the town was the late Don Yates. Today, a new diamond at Playford Park bears his name.
"We used to congregate around the back of his house. There were only three or four gloves so some of us played without a glove. That's how it kicked off," he said.
"But there's a lot of people that were involved and you want to thank them for all they have done."
"That was where it all started. There was great parent support. They would hold housie nights to fundraise."
A diamond was built at Playford Park, a short walk from his front gate, and a club competition began to thrive. It was very family oriented, with the likes of the Dalys, the Workmans and the Smiths, to name a few.
Tangaroa said he began to take his softball seriously when joining the Kotoku club men's team as a 13-year-old, under the wing of mentor Mike McGregor.
"He was instrumental in terms of my career. We were young, but we were looked after and taken to tournaments where we played against the likes of Kevin Herlihy. I was given an opportunity to see the best," he said.
By age 14 Tangaroa was a Horowhenua representative, understudy to the No.1 pitcher. On leaving college he moved to Christchurch, playing for Papanui and later Burnside, and representing Canterbury gained selection to the NZ B team in 1982.
In 1984, his world changed. He was picked up by US scouts, and for almost 20 years spent every Northern Hemisphere summer in the US, where he furnished an incredible career.
He had stints with Lancaster CA Chameleons, Long Beach CA Nitehawks, Denton TX Kings, Saskatoon SK All-O-Matic, Rohnert Park CA Guanella Brothers, Decatur IL Pride, his last season with Broken Bow NE in 1997.
Five times he was selected in ISC's All World First Team. In one 1989 tournament he struck out 32 batters in one 15-inning game, including a no-hitter.
Each summer he returned for the NZ softball season, and by 1986 he was a Black Sox certainty. The pinnacle was a world championship win in Michigan in 1996.
He continued his US career until 1999, and in 2000 he was recruited to be the Black Sox pitching coach, helping the team to win world championships in 2000, 2004, and 2013.
Tangaroa came from a sporting family. His father played rugby and basketball. His mother was a Horowhenua representative in softball and netball.
He said Levin had changed a lot since the 1970s and 1980s, but he was impressed with the improvements.
"It's looking good," he said.