The Auckland Tuatara Have Arrived On The Scene

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How does the Auckland Tuatara sound to you? The newest team on the kiwi sporting horizon, about to enter the 2018-19 Australian Baseball League as one of two expansion teams, and it’s named after the oldest surviving species in the country. Auckland Tuatara, by the way, not Auckland Tuataras – no plurals in Te Reo – though you can absolutely guarantee that the Aussies will bugger that one up. Early money’s on the Auckland Tutorers, though don’t discount Auckland Tudors or Auckland Two Tiers either.

The noble tuatara is a pretty awesome little beast. Old as the dinosaurs, they can hear noise even though they don’t have external ears. From head to tail they can measure up to 80cm and they’re named for the spiky ridges along their back. Oh and get this, per Wikipedia: “They are also unusual in having a pronounced photoreceptive eye, the third eye, which is thought to be involved in setting circadian and seasonal cycles”. They literally have a third eye!

But they’re lazy old buggers if you ever get a look at one. They’re lizards after all (well, technically they’re of the Rhynchocephalic family of lizard-like reptiles). Not the immediate thought of an animal to name a sports team after... hmm…

Kiwi is already taken, obviously (hey does that mean that ‘Kiwis’ as a team-name is technically bad grammar?). Probably bad karma to name a team after the extinct Moa or Haast Eagle. Kea or Kakapo, perhaps. Can’t really name a team after Huhu Grubs. The Wētā would’ve been a decent option. But the Tuatara deserves some cultural lovin’ after we phased out the five-cent coin. Also, the Tuatara on this new logo looks like it could rip a bastard to shreds if it so desired. Nicely done.

Those details and plenty more were unveiled this week at the club launch. The team will wear teal and royal navy as its colours and 49-year-old Steve Mintz, who spent a handful of games in the majors with the San Francisco Giants and Anaheim Angles in the late-90s, will be the team manager. He’s already had a gig managing the Adelaide Bite in the ABL a few years back. Most recently he was a pitching coach in the Texas Rangers organisation with their High-A affiliate.

The point of the Tuatara is to emulate the values of resilience and survival that the creature emanates – plus the club intends to contribute to Tuatara conservation efforts. The point of the colours are to represent the marine connection with the city of Auckland. Oh and they’re the Auckland Tuatara because that leaves the door open for further expansion teams later on down the line. Having said that, while the Tuatara are privately owned, the main shareholder is Baseball NZ so there’s a link going on there.

One thing that hasn’t quite gone to plan is that their intended home base of North Harbour Stadium isn’t available in time for their first season, meaning that the Tuatara’s 12 home games will be played at McLeod Park in Te Atatū. Out west rather than up north, in Auckland stakes. A dozen games spread across three four-game series (Friday, double-header on Saturday, Sunday). Which does mean they’ll be missing out on eight home games compared to everyone else. Only 12 of their 40 games in Aotearoa. Where those games likely come from is their two interdivisional series, with those sounding like they’ll to be taken to regional Australia instead, as close to neutral venues as they’ll get to be fair. The season starts on November 15 with the first home game for the Tuatara a week later. We’re talking a 10 week season too so it’ll be bang, bang, bang.

Anyone regularly reading a bit of TNC – if you do then don’t be shy to contribute to the revolution on Patreon, cheeeeeers – might’ve already read that we’re heavy on the potential of baseball in this country. Just seems like a sport that could really thrive here, with our outstanding softball heritage and the widespread popularity of cricket. Hell, we’ve had Blackcaps throwing out first pitches at MLB games before. Half those dudes dig a little baseball action. Either baseball or golf, you know. So no doubt that the talent is there if only the coaching and the pathways were too. And this is the first step. You’d better believe we’ll be all over it here at The Niche Cache.

Yo but how’s that playing roster looking? Yeah, not bad, mate. It’ll need a deeper scoping out later on when there are more players on lock but already there are five Diamondblacks internationals. Pitchers Jimmy Boyce and Scott Cone are on board. Catcher Te Wera ‘Beau’ Bishop once spent some time in the Boston Red Sox academy. Outfielder Max Brown is an American who has represented New Zealand and played with Adelaide in the ABL. Auckland local Daniel Lamb-Hunt was already unveiled a month ago, as with American pitcher Josh Collmenter.

There are even whispers that Texas Rangers prospect Eric Jenkins is on his way, an outfielder who is ranked in their top thirty talents in that current farm system. The timing of the season and the relative short length of it makes the Aussie Baseball League pretty tasty as an offseason jaunt for prospects like Jenkins – mate, Didi Gregorius once played for the Canberra Cavalry and now he’s shortstop for the New York Yankees – and the ABL is an official winter league for the MLB. Also of note: former major leaguers D.J. Carrasco and Darren Bragg are joining the coaching staff.

Yeah nah, should be good.

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