19 Jan 2012

NZ teen signed to major league baseball franchise

6:18 pm on 19 January 2012

A New Zealand teenager has just signed a seven-year deal with a major league baseball franchise in the United States.

Pita Rona has joined the Baltimore Orioles after scouts came to New Zealand this week to look at players.

The team's director of international operations, David Stockstill, says the 17-year-old is a talented player with accuracy and strength behind the bat.

He says the teenager will stay with his team in New Zealand until June, when he will link up with the team's development programme in Australia.

Rona has played for national softball side, the Black Sox, and is a member of the 18-and-under New Zealand baseball team.

Softball New Zealand general manager Dane Dougan is not worried at the prospect of losing a talented player.

Mr Dougan concedes the largely amateur sport of softball will never come close to matching amount of money on offer in baseball, but remains confident softball still has a bright future in New Zealand.

He is confident the codes can co-exist and the fact US scouts are coming to New Zealand is a tribute to the quality of the softball being played.

Rona and the 18-and-under team will travel to Guam on Sunday to try to win a spot at the World Junior Baseball Championships in Korea in August.