A professional baseball team based in Auckland looks certain of competing in the Australian Baseball League later this year after a visit from Baseball Australia CEO Cam Vale.
Vale spent time in Auckland this week assessing the city's bid for inclusion in the league and was impressed with what he saw, particularly around plans to renovate QBE Stadium to be the team's new home. He all but guaranteed the city a place in the 2018-19 expanded league.
"We were in good shape coming over with different conversations and meetings we have had already but certainly going to QBE Stadium and really getting some of the detail around what the bid is looking at - we are moving positively and we are getting very close to accepting New Zealand into the ABL," he said.
"The stadium and the potential around that is a real highlight and could be a game-changer for the ABL let alone for New Zealand and baseball here."
The Auckland franchise and one other expansion bid will join the six existing franchises from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth. The ABL began in its current format in 2009 and the season runs for three months from November to January.
Assuming the final pieces of the proposal can be locked in place, the New Zealand bid will have less than six months to come up with a franchise name and roster before they take to the diamond. Work will also need to be completed on the stadium, which includes dismantling part of the permanent stands to allow for a full-size field and re-configuring.
A professional team based in New Zealand would have a huge impact on the sport here with elite players having to head offshore to further their careers until now.