BY Nial Adler
SYDNEY — For an 18-year-old American high school kid, the world stage is a dream come true. Add to that a win that keeps your native New Zealand alive in the World Baseball Classic? For Kiwi right-hander Jimmy Boyce, pitching 7,700 miles away from home, it gets a bit more complicated.
First, to the ballgame at hand Down Under. New Zealand had just surrendered the lead with three runs and was trailing, 7-4, with two outs in the sixth inning of the elimination game at Blacktown International Sportspark. The Mount Si High Wildcat came on and surrendered a single before getting former Mets and Marlins outfielder Chris Aguila on a called third strike. “I’m not surprised. I had him last year for the 21-and-under team,” said New Zealand manager Chris Woodward. “I know what Jimmy is all about. Jimmy is one guy, I don’t care if he was 14, the way he pitches, the way he competes, I would trust him every time.”
In the bottom of the inning, New Zealand exploded for six runs, including a three-run homer off the bat of Boss Moanaroa, and never looked back in a 17-7 mercy-rule win in eight innings over the Philippines. Boyce pitched a perfect seventh and got another out in the eighth. He picked up the victory.
“The front of my mind was that catcher’s mitt,” said Boyce. “I knew that I was going to be ineligible once I threw that pitch, but it was not a big deal to me. I’d take this any day over high school sports.”
Boyce, who was born in Tauranga, New Zealand, moved to the U.S. in 2012. He was made aware of the situation not only by New Zealand CEO Ryan Flynn, but by Major League Baseball.
As reported by MLB Network reporter Jon Paul Morosi in a story for FOXSports.com, Washington Interscholastic Activities Association rules prohibit student-athletes from competing in team sports with or against professional players. California has more lenient rules when it comes to international athletes. Its CIF rule book states: “During the high school season of sport, a high school student who has been selected or qualified for participation on the United States team, which will engage in Pan‐American or Olympic competition, may participate on that team.”
An email to WIAA went unanswered.
Boyce will enjoy his time with his fellow Kiwis, the pregame Haka chants and playing with his older brother, Joe. “Having someone here on your family is huge,” Boyce said. “You can talk to him about anything. These guys will have my back. These guys are family here.”
National pride and the chance to play in the ultimate international baseball tournament are apparently enough for Jimmy Boyce to be willing to potentially sacrifice his high school baseball career. The 18-year-old pitcher, who was born in New Zealand but lives in Snoqualmie, Wash., is on the roster for the Kiwi team at the World Baseball Classic qualifier that is taking place in Sydney this week, with one of four teams (New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Philippines) to emerge and make the 16-team field for the 2017 Classic.