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Ex Seattle Mariners coach heading to Wellington

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Former Seattle Mariners organizational coach Gary Wheelock is heading to Wellington in March for three months to ensure the growth of the sport continues in the capital.

With new clubs up and running and several softball clubs beginning to offer baseball, there has been a huge jump in the number of players not just in the city, but also in outlying areas such as the Wairarapa and Levin-and Baseball New Zealand officials believe that adding a former Major League Baseball pitcher to these dynamics could be a game changer.

"I am very excited for the opportunity to assist with the further development of baseball in New Zealand and Wellington in particular," said Wheelock, who arrived this weekend, adding, "I’m looking forward to helping baseball players of all ages, as well as the coaches, improve their skills and knowledge. Baseball is a fun sport and we intend to keep the fun and excitement in the sport as we play and improve."

Wheelock is not new to baseball in New Zealand, having helped coach the nation’s U19 development team that participated in the prestigious Arizona Fall Classic last October. Following that first introduction to New Zealand baseball he was an assistant coach to former Japan Olympic pitcher and current New Zealand U18 National Team head coach Naoyuki Shimizu for their team that played at the BCO Tournament in Sydney in January.

Gary has extensive experience in the major leagues, having worked within the Seattle Mariners organization for over 30 years as a pitching coach, after pitching in the big leagues with the Mariners and California Angels.

"Diamond sport people in the Wellington area should be excited about this development," said Wellington Baseball Association President Regan Wood. "Coaching is very important to assist with the development of the game, and we now have a full- time coach based in the Wellington region and we are very fortunate to have someone of Gary’s pedigree to assist with the development of our game.

"We will have six clubs at under 13 level next year with this development and we’ll be running extended training and development for the next three months," said Wood, adding, "We had a lot of interest in this position and Gary ticks a lot of boxes for us at this stage in our regional development. I’m looking forward to working with Gary to fine tune the young players in our area, and he’ll be assisting with the under 13 and under 16 teams heading to Auckland (for the United Airlines National Championships)."

Wood’s sentiments were echoed earlier today by Baseball New Zealand CEO Ryan Flynn. "Wellington is at a crucial stage in their baseball development and maturation, and now we have a full-time coach in place, a man who is respected across America in professional baseball as one of the best in the business," Flynn said, adding that the region now needs a 90-foot (full size adult baseball) diamond or two and he predicts great things in the coming 24 months in a region that has already produced top prospects like Beau Bishop, formerly of the Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers and many other national team members at various age grades.

"This is one of the final pieces of the puzzle to bring together Wellington’s talented young people, existing administrators as well as dedicated volunteers in a region that many of us in the sport believe could rival Auckland as the hub of the sport in the not-so-distant future," Flynn stated. "There’s been a major surge in interest and activity in the last twelve months in Wellington and its surrounding regions, and the addition of Gary to the program can only compliment and boost this exciting growth and potential."

Gary Wheelock will be based in Wellington from early March right through till the middle of June.

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