Fallen Constable Matthew Hunt had a spot-on softball arm. During a high school tournament he threw the ball from the middle of the outfield straight to the catcher at the home plate.
As Hunt's teammates celebrated, the ever-humble teenager simply beamed.
"He was one the kindest, most caring guys we've ever met," his former teammates remember.
Parliament this afternoon honoured Hunt with National police spokesman Mark Mitchell, who knows his family, sharing messages from others who knew him.
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Mitchell spent Friday evening with Hunt's colleagues and superiors and said it was clear the constable was "a deeply kind man" who never had a bad word to say about anyone.
And he was calm and considered, said Mitchell.
One story recounted was when Hunt was threatened with a knife and would have been justified in using force, but got the offender to put down the knife through his words and manner, Mitchell said.
Hunt's mother, Diane, said everyone knew her son to be a "selfless man of huge integrity" and gave her words to Mitchell to read in Parliament.
"He loved serving the community, he loved serving his community and protecting his fellow New Zealanders.
"My heart is crying out that this was so unnecessary and tragic ... My beautiful boy, 28 years young, will never have another birthday."
Mitchell said Hunt was a loving, protective son of Diane and trusted big brother of Eleanor - they were a tight family unit of three.
"Matt, you aren't here to put your strong arms around your mum or your sister but know that your police family and community are putting our strong arms around them for you."
A true Coastie
Hunt was raised on the Hibiscus Coast and picked up all the personality traits that went with it, said Mitchell.
"He had all the traits of a classic Coastie - laid-back and calm, community focused and always with a beaming smile."
His Orewa College classmates remember him as "an absolute legend" who was warm-natured, gave everything a go and did it with a smile, Mitchell said.
He was also an "undercover academic" with his English teacher saying he'd play practical jokes on everyone, teachers included, but would surprise everyone by handing in high-level work on time.
Born to be in justice
Hunt was born to work in the justice sector, said his former colleagues at the Department of Corrections who had been keeping a desk warm for him if he had not liked policing.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in her speech to the House said Hunt went on his OE to London to get wider life experience on the advice of a police officer.
And when he finally applied to be in the police, the recruiter noted Hunt was "a mature and skilled professional with a developed sense of resilience, excellent problem-solving skills and ability to perform under pressure".
He had "the ideal qualities to be an officer", said Ardern.
Hunt graduated from AUT University with a degree in criminology and joined the police force in 2017 after working as a case manager at Corrections where he helped guide people through the justice sector.
"Matt did indeed have a star quality - a star that was taken too soon."
Hunt's death had moved people the length of the country, said Ardern.
"To lose a police officer is to lose someone working for all of us, but also a family member, someone's loved one and a friend."
Police lives matter
NZ First leader Winston Peters said Hunt's death was an "appalling tragedy" that demonstrated the risk police officers took everyday.
Every New Zealander was indebted to Hunt who paid "the ultimate price for the cowardly actions of a criminal" who should be incarcerated for the longest period of time that the law provided.
"Fellow colleagues, police lives matter. May he rest in peace."
Meanwhile Green party co-leader James Shaw said Hunt's death was "a heartbreaking reminder" the life of a police officer could be taken away at any moment.
Shaw said he knew many would struggle to come to terms with Hunt's death and ask what needed to happen to prevent another tragedy, which was understandable.
"Police officers have a right to go home to their families, just like everybody else. Mr Speaker, few of us here will ever match the sacrifice Constable Hunt has made, but we can match his commitment to making New Zealand a better place."