Mark Richardson calls for end to softball 'infatuation'

News 27/03/2019

Former Blackcaps batsman and AM Show sports host Mark Richardson has called for New Zealand to abandon its obsession with softball.

Black Sox coach Mark Sorenson has named his 17-strong squad to defend the world men's title in the Czech Republic in May.

Captain Nathan Nukunuku will contest his seventh world tournament and New Zealand will seek their eighth world title - more than any other country - including five of the past seven.

But Richardson insists our obsession with the sport is inhibiting lucrative career opportunities in the professional baseball.

"It's time this country walked away from softball," Richardson told The AM Show.

"I know we're world champions, I know we have a wonderful history in this game, but it's time we started to channel some of these great athletes we have into baseball."

Richardson pointed at the impact basketball Steven Adams had made on the NBA, since he was drafted by the Houston Rockets and then traded to Oklahoma City Thunder in 2013.

"He is succeeding in the world of basketball," said Richardson. "He's doing such god things for New Zealand.

"I would like to see more New Zealanders getting into Major League Baseball - I think it would do wonderful things for sport in this country.

"By continuing with our infatuation with softball, which really takes kids nowhere, I think we're hamstringing our ability to put kids into great occupations in Major League Baseball."

The two diamond-sport codes have an uneasy relationship in New Zealand. Softball is a traditional staple of the Kiwi sporting landscape over generations, but baseball has spread its tentacles beyond the United States and around the globe.

AM Show host Duncan Garner claimed to have close friends in the Black Sox community and even they talked about the opportunities available to young players in baseball.

Predictably, Richardson's outburst drew a sharp reaction from softball supporters emailing into the show.

"Mark Richardson, it has now been confirmed you are a dick!" wrote former NZ player Kevin Richardson (no relation). "You have come from a game that is a cheat's game - people have been jailed for controlling results.

"New Zealand cricket have never won a world champs and your opinion is about as effective as the New Zealand cricket team - not taken seriously.

"You couldn't take the pressure of playing top-level softball, mate. Don't comment on something you know nothing about."