You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Mitchell Wheeler, of Alexandra, and Josh Eastwood, of Oamaru, have been selected in the International Softball Association age group development team.
The team is set to tour the United States, Canada and Australia in the middle of the year.
Being selected for your country at any level in any sport is a fine achievement. When there is no organised softball competition in your town and you still manage to gain national honours — that is exceptional.
His national selection followed some outstanding form for the Otago under-17 side that played in the South Island tournament during the summer school holidays, and after that in the under-17 national tournament in Pukekohe, where he was named in the tournament team.
When Eastwood learned he had been picked to wear the black shirt, he was "shocked".
"It was pretty overwhelming".
He described his form for Otago as "pretty good", which is possibly something of an understatement.
The Waitaki Boys’ High School year 12 pupil said now that the news had sunk in, he looked forward to contributing at national level.
"It’ll be good. What I’m looking forward to most is meeting new people I haven’t played against.
"There’s multiple tournaments we play, and we play against random teams."
Eastwood began playing softball about nine years ago and has been hooked ever since.
He enjoyed the competition between teams and is determined to play his part when he is on tour with the national side.
Organised softball has not been played in Oamaru for several years, and Eastwood said that was a shame.
Wheeler (17) first started playing softball when he was about 6 and has been playing ever since.
He was introduced to the game by Terrace School principal Garry Anderson and played as often as he can.
He said he played for the Central Otago Panthers, who travelled to Invercargill every weekend for club play. Senior softball is not played in Central Otago.
Playing in the competition meant a five-hour round trip to Invercargill every week, with a group of about eight players heading south every weekend to play two games on each trip.
A catcher, who can also play second base, he played for Otago at the South Island and national tournaments.
A heavy diesel apprentice mechanic, Wheeler said he would continue to play the game until the end of summer and then keep in form before leaving in June for the United States and Canada and coming back to Australia to play in the Friendship Games in Brisbane.
- Daniel Birchfield & Steve Hepburn