The New Zealand team performing the Haka.

New Zealand edges past Fleming Jets in July 4 game

July 10, 2019 9:29 am
Kara Kinna

In what has become an annual tradition, the Fleming Jets took on the New Zealand ISA Under 19 Fastball team on Thursday, July 4 in Fleming.

The George Engle Memorial Fastball Game took place at Fleming Green Acres Ball Park at 7 pm. New Zealand won the game by one run in extra innings.

But before things got going, the New Zealand team carried out a Haka, a traditional war dance of the Maori people of New Zealand. The Haka is very much a part of New Zealand culture and is done before most sporting events in New Zealand as a form of welcome and thank you.

This too has become an annual tradition, with the New Zealand team doing the Haka before playing the Fleming Jets each year.

The U19 team that came to Fleming is with the International Softball Academy (ISA). Teams with the ISA go on international tours to gain fastball skills and see the world, and Fleming has been an annual stop since 2013.

The team also played in other games and tournaments in Southeast Saskatchewan and Southwest Manitoba while they were here.

Ian Glasser with the Fleming Jets says the Fleming-New Zealand connection came about when he and another Jets player, Cody Hudym, went to New Zealand to play ball.

“Cody Hudym and I went over there in 2009 to play ball in New Zealand and got hooked up with Craig Waterhouse. He’s the one who organizes the International Softball Academy. So it was a good connection to get there,” says Glasser.

“Craig’s son Jordan came over and played over here in 2012 and in 2013 went to Balcarres. 2013 was the first year they (the New Zealand team) came to Fleming.

“For the New Zealand kids, they get to see the world. It gives them the opportunity to see Canada. Whereas if they didn’t do that, they might not ever get that chance. And it’s a chance to play some better softball. They get to experience Canadian culture.

“For the Jets, there aren’t many guys who can say they get to play against an international team like that.

“They do the Haka before hand and that’s kind of a cool experience.

The New Zealand team performing the Haka.

“They usually have high end coaches that coach their teams. They practice in the mornings and then they play. When they come to Fleming, they will probably get there mid-afternoon and practice before they even play us on our diamond. They are just constantly playing softball and playing games and practicing and developing their skills.

“I enjoy seeing how they warm up and how they play. That’s what I look forward to. And the Haka is always cool to see.

“It’s just a good experience, a cool experience to see the Haka and learn a bit of their culture. And to see some good softball.”

One of the New Zealand players is safe at base.

He says the New Zealand players love coming to Fleming each year as much as Fleming loves having them. They are always impressed by the Fleming Green Acres Ball Park, and are also billeted out when they are here, getting a chance to experience some Saskatchewan culture.

“They love coming to Fleming,” says Glasser. “It’s a one-of-a-kind diamond—there aren’t many around like that.

“It’s just such a small town. A lot of these kids are coming from bigger cities. When they come and see this diamond in this small little town, they can’t believe it. We get lots of compliments on our diamond. We take pride in our diamond.

“Our team, we work on the diamond to keep it up every year, because there is a culture there too.

“They like coming to Fleming because we always billet them out. So they split into groups of four and they go stay in someone’s place in Fleming or Moosomin or the surrounding area. And they get to experience Saskatchewan living for a day.”

The ball game is a fundraiser for the for the Fleming Jets and for the diamond, and also included a 50/50 draw that evening, as well as Fleming Jets and New Zealand merchandise, which was on sale.

Glasser says the fundraising portion of the game helps the Jets maintain the diamond.

“We always have to keep up maintenance on the diamond so that helps out for sure,” he says.

The New Zealand team celebrates a home run.