James Matthews will represent New Zealand at the U13 World Series in the United States next month. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Nelson’s budding baseball star jets off to USA

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When James Matthews was just nine-years-old he made the call to trade his cricket bat for a baseball mitt.

Just two years on, his decision has paid off as he prepares to head to the home of baseball and take on the world’s best young players.

James will represent his county at the Cal Ripken U13 World Baseball Series in Missouri in August.

The Nelson College Preparatory School student will be taking on baseball giants Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Japan and, of course, the United States.

His rise to national ranks may have been a rapid one but it was not an easy journey.

James is out of bed well before dawn most days to head to training.

“It can he pretty tiring sometimes, but it has all been worth it.”

The 11-year-old called curtains on a promising cricketing career to focus on baseball.

His baseball journey began at the Nelson Heat Club open day.

“I knew some kids playing and I had always enjoyed cricket and so I went along because the skills are pretty transferable, so it was easy to change.”

It didn’t take long for James to take to the game.

“As soon as I started, I fell in love, I instantly enjoyed it.”

A pitcher and short stop for his club, James says his greatest asset is with the bat.

“I think hitting is my biggest strength, I like the hitting aspect – when it’s just you and the pitcher and your job is just to get a hit.”

James is one of only two South Islanders in the squad and the sole representative from Nelson.

“Nelson is not a big baseball city so most of the time I train with a Nelson/Wellington combined side who are travelling to Japan this year.”

He says there will be some important eyes on him come August.

“It’s a good opportunity to get scouted, because it’s America.”

The New Zealand U13’s will play at Branson Missouri’s ‘Ballparks of America’ from August 3-11.