During the final part of the Prague Softball Summer a special participant from far, far away visited European soil as part of a developing partnership between the two parties. The Junior Black Sox, New Zealand's national team full of future softball superstars, went on a tour to test their skills at ESF men's Super Cup. For the young Kiwi's it served as part of the selection process for the 2016 junior men's World Championship (for which the final team is expected to be named in January), as a great opportunity to face some of the best players our game has to offer, since the international competition featured in Prague included players that have recently taken part in the World Championship in Canada. And, last but not least, it was a character-building experience for the boys giving the coaches a chance to find the leaders within the squad. During an informal chat, the players themselves expressed the feeling, that this European trip is an event they will never forget for far more reasons than just the potential for softball skills improvement.
The Junior Black Sox played a few warm-up games prior to ESCM and impressed many with their mature level of play. They won three games in the round robin and qualified for the Super Cup bracket, in which they lost both of their games and placed 11th overall (which is still remarkable, considering the total number of teams at ESCM was 23). Jackson Watt, proved his team's captain role, as he appears in the tournament stats among the top 10 base stealers and boasted a .333 batting average, enough to place within the top 20 batters.
During the 12-day trip, coaches Thomas Makea and Jarrad Martin answered the demand for coaches' panel and players' clinic and took the time to squeeze both of these into their busy schedule. Martin (a star outfielder and world champion with the Black Sox) and Makea (also a multiple World Championship winner, recent "Softballer of the year" and "International coach of the year" awards recipient) showed their tips and tricks for both hitting and pitching, and a couple of days later talked about raising champions and the challenges of reaching the top during the coaches' panel.
While watching the Super Cup final, Jarrad Martin summed up his impressions from the Kiwi's trip to Europe in a short interview.
For a full list of results and stats, click here. For a condensed game of Junior Black Sox vs Radotin, check out this link. To relive the game in its entire length, head over to Playo.tv's site. Photogallery to be found on the ESCM Facebook.