Baseball: Tuatara talisman Daniel Lamb-Hunt sets sights high for debut season

Lamb-Hunt sees big things in the Tuatara's future.
Lamb-Hunt sees big things in the Tuatara's future. Photo credit: Photosport

Veteran Kiwi baseballer Daniel Lamb-Hunt is in the thick of preparations for a day he thought may never come.

The Aucklander had long held dreams of plying his trade as a professional on New Zealand diamonds, after being hand-picked from the world of softball by scouts from Major League Baseball's Atlanta Braves.

But in a country where softball rules the diamonds, he thought the dream Baseball NZ – and now Auckland Tuatara – CEO Ryan Flynn was trying to sell him at the 2012 World Baseball Classic was a bridge too far.

"At the time, there just wasn't much baseball at all in New Zealand," Lamb-Hunt told Newshub.

"When Ryan took over there was about 300 players in the country. We just didn’t have the player numbers to really push.

"Before then I didn't think there was any chance of it. But talking with him and hearing his drive and his plans, it gave us the idea that there may be something coming.

"With the development of the game in NZ – we're now at 8000 players - you can almost put that down to Ryan Flynn himself.

"Now that it's finally here after so many years, it's super exciting to first of all have it and then being able to have the privilege to come back home and play for the team."

NZ's newest franchise is now on the brink of their official debut in the Australian Baseball League against the Perth Heat on Friday, and they'll be leaning on the experienced shoulders of Lamb-Hunt to help lead the way.

After his stint with the Braves, the utility infielder spent a few years with the ABL's Brisbane Bandits, before a chance encounter saw him land in Germany, where he's spent the last eight years.

"Obviously I'm one of the older guys, but I'm trying to come in as more of a younger guy just to keep myself younger.

"I guess I can bring more of a calming effect to the high pressure games - just through age and experience - that I think we might need.

"Other than that, everyone's on an even keel and we're coming out to ball."

The Tuatara were swept 3-0 at the hands of the defending champion Brisbane Bandits in a pre-season series last week, but Lamb-Hunt was encouraged by what he saw from his new colleagues against the cream of the ABL crop.

"We came out of it pretty positive…it just backed up that we're coming out ready to go and ready to compete.

"Brisbane are the three-time champs and realistically we hung with them…we had chances to win all three of those games that we played.

"We're definitely pretty positive with how it went down and if we fine tune a few things, I think we're going to be good."

Lamb-Hunt was the first Kiwi to be signed to the club's roster, which was finalised on Tuesday. It includes a total of nine local players – one above the league minimum.

While it boasts some Major League studs in the likes of Josh Collmenter, he believes their homegrown talent – in particular pitchers Kyle Glogoski and Jimmy Boyce – will "exceed all expectations".

One thing's certain – the team isn’t coming out to simply make up the numbers.  The Tuatara may be the new kids on base, but Lamb-Hunt insists they're gunning for the top.

"We're coming out to win," he stated emphatically.

"The main goal is that if we can compete and keep ourselves in games, then most of the time we'll end up on top. We want to take control of our destiny.

"We're not here to put our toes in the water, we're here to dive in and go at it."