Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius has been getting the headlines this past week but another visitor might give baseball in New Zealand a much bigger lift in the coming months.

San Diego Padres general manager AJ Preller has been in the country checking out the local talent and state of the sport with a thought to investing in its potential.

Preller and the Padres organisation has had dialogue with Baseball New Zealand for some time now about working together which has seen Kiwi officials making trips to the United States last year.

This week has been the first chance for Preller to get down to New Zealand and see things for himself.


"I have been here for only a couple of days but it has been great," he said.

"We have had a chance to see baseball at all different levels. We have seen club teams play in league games, we've seen younger kids that are 15 or 16 years old and even at clinic level - 7-8 years old and just getting an introduction to the game.

"It has been interesting to see where baseball is at in this country.

"I think the biggest thing is just getting familiar with where things are at. We have had people from Baseball New Zealand come to San Diego and talk to us about the opportunity here to grow the game. From my standpoint until you see things first hand and see where things are at - that is the most important thing."

It might have been a whirlwind visit but in speaking to Preller it is obvious he has already fashioned an understanding of the unique sporting landscape we have in New Zealand.

"There is a definite passion here. There is a tradition in a lot of sports - there is a ton of tradition in Olympic sports, obviously in rugby and in softball. With Steven Adams in basketball and you see that sport growing.

"The question is whether there is a way of growing the game of baseball here. New Zealand is a country that has a track record of producing good athletes and now the question is how can we help grow the game here."

Preller thinks baseball doesn't need its own version of Adams. While that would clearly help he said there were other ways to grow the sport and get more kids playing.

"That part always helps but it is about creating a vision so kids can look at things and see what the possibilities are. Ultimately you play sport for a lot of reasons - you play for the competitiveness, you play to have fun, for the physical activity but I think part of it is also the opportunity it creates. People see Steven Adams playing in the NBA it is obviously a great opportunity for him to go and play in one of the premier leagues and make a lot of money doing that.

"If you get guys having some success, whether that is at college level or professional leagues, then it leads to other people wanting to do the same thing."

So does that mean the Padres will invest financially in the sport here?

"Honestly we are in the exploratory phase of that," Preller said. "That is why I am here. It is always good to get on the field and see young kids play and help grow the game that way.

"I think there are a lot of people here that have some creative thoughts and ideas and that will be for us to sit down over the next few weeks and months - to sit down together and see where things go from here."