Baseball: Auckland Tuatara officially unveiled as New Zealand entry to Australian Baseball League

By Christopher Reive

New Zealand's newest professional sporting franchise will share a name with the country's oldest surviving species.

Baseball New Zealand have confirmed their entry into the Australian Baseball League has been dubbed the Auckland Tuatara, with former Major League Baseball pitcher Steve Mintz signing on to manage the side.

Mintz comes to the club from the Texas Rangers organisation, where he is working as a pitching coach for one of the side's minor league affiliate teams, the Down East Wood Ducks.

The official logo.
The official logo.

Auckland Tuatara board member Brett O'Riley unveiled the Tuatara logo, which features the head of the native reptile as well as the teal and royal navy colours that will define the franchise.

The colour scheme was chosen to resemble the region's marine heritage.

"We are celebrating the resilience of the Tuatara as our oldest surviving species, and we want the team to mirror those qualities on the diamond," O'Riley said.

Josh Collmenter is one of two confirmed signings for the Auckland Tuatara. Photo / Getty Images
Josh Collmenter is one of two confirmed signings for the Auckland Tuatara. Photo / Getty Images

"We intend to make an annual contribution towards Tuatara conservation through Auckland Zoo and global coverage of the team will raise awareness of New Zealand's commitment to species protection."

Establishing a New Zealand franchise in the ABL has been almost a decade in the making. Baseball New Zealand initially held talks with the league about eight years ago, before being offered a spot in the competition late last year.

With the offer on the table, the organisation took it and have been working hard to bring the idea to life.

Baseball NZ CEO Ryan Flynn poses for a photo as the new Auckland Tuatara baseball team is announced. Photo / Photosport.co.nz
Baseball NZ CEO Ryan Flynn poses for a photo as the new Auckland Tuatara baseball team is announced. Photo / Photosport.co.nz

Because their proposed permanent base at Albany's QBE Stadium won't be ready for the 2018/19 season, the Tuatara will host their 12 home games at Te Atatu's McLeod Park in their debut season - all of which are before Christmas. Their first home game will be played on November 22.

Baseball New Zealand chief executive Ryan Flynn said establishing the new club was a watershed moment for baseball in the country.

"Kiwi kids will have a local team to aspire to and our leading players will be able to play professionally while being based here at home.

"There is a tremendous appetite for professional baseball in New Zealand and we are delighted to be able to give Kiwi sports fans the opportunity to see it first-hand."

The team was putting together a strong roster for their inaugural season, which will feature local talent as well as players from the United States, Australia, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Seven-year MLB veteran pitcher Josh Collmenter and Kiwi infielder Daniel Lamb-Hunt were the team's first two official signings.

On Monday, the team announced four more players in Kiwi quartet Jimmy Boyce (pitcher), Scott Cone (pitcher), Max Brown (outfielder) and Te Wera Bishop (catcher).

The Herald revealed former MLB pitcher D.J. Carrasco would be the team's pitching coach earlier this month. Also joining the coaching staff is Darren Bragg - a current minor league bench coach with the Cincinnati Reds.

- NZ Herald

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