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Flynn builds a team

Bethlehem grad turns New Zealand into baseball power

Ryan Flynn is turning New Zealand into a budding international baseball power.

As Baseball New Zealand’s Chief Executive Officer, the Bethlehem Central High School graduate built a national team which finished second to fourth-ranked Taiwan in a World Baseball Classic qualifier.

“I was thrilled with the performance of our national team and the performance of our players, coaches and my staff,” said Flynn via email.

New Zealand played Taiwan close through the first five innings of the qualifier final before losing 9-0. That followed a similar effort when the Kiwis met Taiwan in the first game of round-robin play. In between, New Zealand defeated Thailand 12-2 and the Philippines 10-6 to advance to the final.

“We were the only unranked nation that was allowed to participate in the event, after months and months of lobbying and paperwork,” said Flynn. “And it’s fair to say that no one expected us to have fielded a team, much less put such a strong team and coaching staff on the field in Taiwan.”

Flynn has had the task of turning around New Zealand’s baseball program since 2009, and he said the process was slow at first.

“The biggest challenge is the fact that the sport is a viewed as a ‘minority’ sport in this country, falling well below rugby, cricket, netball and many ‘commonwealth’ sports, or sports popular in the United Kingdom and its former territories,” said Flynn. “Men’s softball has been much more popular than baseball, with many people not realizing how many opportunities exist in the sport of baseball in North America and across the globe.

“Due to this low profile, the funding to run a true national program has been very limited, and this is my biggest challenge: running a sport with minimal resources compared to the larger codes. This is beginning to change for the better due to our recent successes, but it’s not an initiative that happens overnight.”

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