Nelson Heat Baseball Club hits a home run with NZCT grant!

It’s a great opportunity for kids to travel and to experience being part of a team. Some kids don’t get a lot of holidays and this a good way to see new places, make new friends and learn the value of being in a team
Carlos, Thompson, 13, from Garin College in Nelson

New Zealand Community Trust (NZCT) has granted Nelson Heat Baseball Club $7,237 to help cover transportation and accommodation costs while attending the Baseball NZ Club Nationals.

Carlos, Thompson, 13, from Garin College in Nelson plays in the Nelson Heat 14U team as a pitcher and first baseman. He says he’s excited about attending club nationals with his team in January 2024 - “It’s a great opportunity for kids to travel and to experience being part of a team. Some kids don’t get a lot of holidays and this a good way to see new places, make new friends and learn the value of being in a team."

Carlos says being part of a travelling team helps build strong bonds, on and off the diamond - “Often you’ll share a room with someone you don’t know that well and it gives you the opportunity to understand them better. Before a tournament our coaches ask what we all want to achieve, and everyone has different goals. Some just want to get a hit, others want to experience a new environment or a new challenge.”

What does Carlos want for himself at the upcoming tournament?

“I would love for our team to nationals, of course. It’s a good way to get your name out there as a player, to be seen by scouts and to have your skills recognised. Being at a tournament opens so many opportunities that people just don’t realise. If you want to progress at baseball you need to get your name out there at these tournaments.”

President Rachel Knowles adds

2024 is hopefully the first complete season of baseball national tournaments for our youth members to attend. Cancellations in 2020, 2021, 2022 (& NSO tournament format changes in 2023) have left many players without the opportunity to travel as a team to compete at a national level.

A vital part of our baseball programme is trying to ensure that all our members have the opportunity to compete, regardless of their personal financial situation. This grant and community fundraising will ensure their contribution is less than half of the actual cost of the trip.

The funds we have received from NZCT will be used to pay for accommodation at two national baseball events. Our 14U and 16U teams will be travelling to club nationals in Auckland in January and February respectively to compete for the title of Club Champions.

After years of cancellations due to Covid, followed by a season of national rebuilding that affected national tournaments, our club and players are rearing to get to a national tournament to test themselves against the best around the country and to rekindle friendships made at previous events many years ago.

As a regional Club with a limited number of teams, it is important for our players to get out of the region and play against and with other baseballers from around the country. For them to grow and develop as baseball players they need the opportunity to be tested by players of different skills, ability and techniques and to face a variety of pitchers to become better hitters.

At Nelson Heat we’re committed to providing national opportunities to all our players. We recognise this exposure will develop everyone, from those new to the game, to those chasing places in national squads. Players also need the opportunity to be in front of talent scouts and national coaches to showcase their capabilities. Local coaches, scorekeepers and umpires also benefit from involvement with national tournaments and then are better equipped to assist players locally.

The cost of getting two teams to Auckland from regional South Island is huge, up to $18,000 per team sometimes depending on what flight price points we can obtain. We don’t want to put all that cost onto our families as it would prevent some players attending. As a Club that does not leave anyone behind, funding and fundraising is of utmost importance to enabling the opportunities to be taken by everyone. As well as the generous assistance of NZCT, our Club community has been selling bacon, with the support of local butchery Pestells, and running raffles and other fundraisers. We plan to keep the costs as low as possible so every player can attend and we couldn’t do that without the funds granted to us by NZCT.

NZCT’s GM Grants, Marketing and Communications, Ben Hodges says “We’re delighted to be able to help get this fantastic group of young people get to their big tournaments. At a time when so many families are doing it tough in terms of finances, I’m sure our grant was welcome news. We thank our hospitality partners – the Motueka Hotel and the Ocean Lodge for their help in raising responsible gaming funds that made this grant possible”.

Nelson Heat Baseball Club was established in 2017 in Richmond by friends Rachel Knowles and former Black Sox pitcher Marty Grant, who were seeking baseball opportunities for their sons and their friends who were interested in the sport. We began with one team of fifteen players who managed to take the bronze medal at their first ever Club Nationals. This season, the Club has five teams and the region has a second club providing extra competition. We host the largest regional club tournament in the country every Labour Weekend and have hosted a number of National events on behalf of Baseball NZ in the past. The sport has the backing of local councils with dedicated facilities in the pipeline.

All of the parents, and many club members who have no children playing, contribute. It’s an incredibly supportive community where everyone wants the best for their child and all the players. Whether it’s coaching, cooking, selling for fundraisers, grooming the diamonds, handing out clean uniforms, or just running general errands - whenever we need something done, there’s someone with their hand up. The fundraising that has taken place to help get the 14U and 16U teams to nationals has been taken on by everyone club-wide, not just the families of players attending. It’s a privilege to be involved in such an inclusive and supportive sports community.

Our club has been acknowledged nationally too, having taken out a number of national baseball awards each year over the past few years. This includes Club of the Year in 2020, Paying It Forward Award (Marty Grant) in 2021 and Team of the Year (16U) in 2022.