Former Major League Baseball pitcher D.J. Carrasco has signed on as part of New Zealand's first ever professional team.
The eight-year MLB veteran, who is currently working as an advanced scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers, will be the pitching coach for the Auckland-based Australian Baseball League franchise this summer.
Carrasco, 41, has been a member of Baseball New Zealand's coaching staff in the past, working as the pitching coach for a national youth development squad. While he left the role to take on his position with the Dodgers, Baseball New Zealand chief executive Ryan Flynn told the Herald he would be returning for the ABL season.
Flynn also confirmed the team's manager, third base coach and hitting coach had also been appointed, but would be revealed at the team's open day later this month.
"D.J. has been here every year for the past three or four years," Flynn said.
"I'm really pleased. Obviously the whole goal is to get our local kids and our young coaches training with these coaches and learning."
Carrasco brings a wealth of experience to the side, having pitched for the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Mets at the major league level.
The ABL season is fast approaching, with the schedule being unveiled last week. While Flynn and Baseball New Zealand were constantly working to make sure everything was ready for opening day, it was expected just the idea of the team would be promoting the sport in New Zealand.
The local club registrations for the upcoming season opened this week, and Flynn said the number of people playing the sport in New Zealand this year would increase "without a doubt".
When Flynn started with Baseball New Zealand about eight and a half years ago, there were only a few hundred baseball players in the country. Since then, the sport has become more and more popular. Flynn said by last year that number had increased to more than 8000.
"Now with the country being able to see professional baseball in their own backyard in a real hub for the sport, children don't have to dream the far away dream. Now, it's a close dream to play in front of their family and friends - and earning a pay check while doing it is a game changer.
"To young kids, watching professionals get ready to play - our kids, our Kiwis - on the field, that is as good as it gets really."
Baseball New Zealand will be holding an open day at the end of the month, where the ABL team's name will be revealed along with more members of the coaching and playing staff.
The team have only announced two official signings so far: seven-year MLB pitcher Josh Collmenter, and national representative infielder Daniel Lamb-Hunt.