In building the New Zealand national team, CEO Ryan Flynn undertook a global search for players possessing any of baseball’s five tools and — crucially — a sixth: Kiwi blood, in sufficient proportion to represent the Diamondblacks, as they are known.
Flynn found one right-handed pitcher in Snoqualmie, Washington … in the senior class at Mount Si High School.
Jimmy Boyce, 18, is on New Zealand’s roster for the World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament in Sydney, Australia. He didn’t appear in the Kiwis’ opening loss to South Africa. But if Boyce steps on the mound against the Philippines (Thursday, 9 p.m. ET), he will cross a rubicon in eligibility with the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
WIAA bylaws prohibit student-athletes from competing in team sports with or against professional players. Since the other nations in the qualifier — Australia, South Africa and the Philippines — include players with major- and minor-league experience, Boyce will lose his eligibility once he throws a pitch for New Zealand.
“Jimmy has a lot of baseball ahead of him,” Flynn said via email from Australia. “While I do not believe that he should have had to make such a difficult decision in his young career, his makeup, his talent and desire put him in a position to have a solid collegiate career in the U.S., and, barring injury, I fully expect for him to be a professional baseball player, as well, in due course.”
Mike Colbrese, the WIAA executive director, told FOX Sports that student-athletes in team sports may appeal to him if their eligibility is compromised by playing with or against professionals.
Boyce was born in Tauranga, New Zealand, and moved with his family to Auckland at age 4. Boyce excelled in baseball as a boy; that is historically rare in New Zealand, where men’s softball is more established. He moved to the U.S. in 2012 because he sought a higher level of baseball competition. At times, that has meant living with host families while his parents, Joe and Anne-Marie, worked in different parts of the world.
Boyce has played for the Seattle-area Chaffey Baseball summer program. Joe Boyce said in an email that his son has yet to play on the Mount Si varsity because of complications arising from his status as an international transfer student.
“Jimmy just wants to play baseball with his friends and have the same opportunity to compete and win for the school,” Joe Boyce said. “Will he be disappointed if he cannot play? Absolutely. He has dedicated himself to baseball.
“However, I can also say if it is a choice between playing high school baseball and representing New Zealand at the WBC or any other event, that is a very easy decision. All of our family take huge pride in being Kiwis.”
New Zealand manager Chris Woodward could use Boyce as a starter or reliever during the qualifier. If he helps the underdog Kiwis win the tournament, Boyce will have some fabulous stories to tell during lunch hour at Mount Si — whether he plays on the varsity or not.