After 15 years batting his way through hundreds of softball games, Kapiti College student Jayden Stratford is set to compete at the Junior Men's Softball World Championship in Midland, Michigan, this July.
Selected for the Temperzone New Zealand Junior Black Sox from a 36-man training squad, Jayden will play in the premier 1 men's tournaments as part of the 17-man team.
The year 13 student will leave New Zealand on July 8, where his team will play a warm-up series in Ohio, before moving on to Midland for the World Championship from July 22 to 30, returning home on August 9.
"New Zealand has a very good chance of winning this year," Jayden's mother Michelle Stratford said.
"The Junior Black Sox came second at the last World series in Whitehorse, Canada, during 2014 where they finished second to an Argentinian side."
Coach Thomas Makea and assistant coach Jared Martin will accompany the team overseas, both world champions and Softball Hall of Fame Black Sox players, along with batting coach Bevan Martin and manager Wayne Small.
In preparation for the event, the Junior Black Sox competed at Auckland's Dean Schick tournament over the weekend, before the Southern Cross Challenge in Christchurch on Easter Weekend. They are also scheduled for a training camp in May.
Team members would continue playing for their club teams until the end of March.
"Jayden plays for the premier 1 Miramar team.
"He has represented Wellington and Western Bays every year from U9 to U19 and this is the ultimate achievement in his junior career.
"He was over the moon to be selected, as this has been his dream since he was very young," Michelle said.
Having played softball since he was two years old, Jayden also watched his father and grandfather do well in the sport.
Jonny Stratford, who played premier 1 Softball for 23 years and was a senior Wellington representative, still plays alongside his son in the Miramar team.
"And, at 65, Jayden's granddad still plays for the Masterton Giants Presidents team."
With the 17-year-old's overseas journey not far away, Michelle was busy planning quiz night and raffle fundraisers to help cover the $7500 needed to get there.
"So far we've received local business donations and sponsorships including $500 worth of gift cards from Coastlands and a $100 facial voucher from Caci Clinic," she said.
"We'd love to hear from any other Kapiti business that would like to support Jayden."
Jayden, who spends around 10 hours a week dedicated to the sport, said it would be his "ultimate dream" to win the World Championship.
"This is my one shot to win this title, as I'll be too old to compete at the 2018 World Championships," Jayden said.
"I really appreciate all the support I've received so far from the Kapiti Community in getting there."