Baseball: Auckland Tuatara player Ryan Costello dies of 'natural causes'

Tragedy has struck the Auckland Tuatara baseball franchise, with American Ryan Costello dying overnight, one week after arriving in New Zealand for his debut season with the Australian Baseball League side.

A club statement says preliminary indications suggest the 23-year-old third baseman died of natural causes.

The Minnesota Twins prospect was expected to play a major role in the Tuatara's second stint in the Aussie competition and the club has extended its "deepest condolences" to his family back in the United States. 

Devastated Tuatara teammates are being offered support to help them through the ordeal.

The club signed Costello in September, after he had hit 15 home runs in the 2019 minor leagues for the Twins organisation, and manager Steve Mintz was excited to add him to the growing roster.  

"Costello will be huge, because he can play all over the field - first base, third base, as well as left field and right field," said Mintz. "He is a left bat and will ground out at-bats for us, while providing some pop."