New Zealand softball star fights for a spot on Red Sox minor-league team

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Thirteen months ago, Te Wera “Beau” Bishop had never played a game of baseball.

Within a month, he might be playing for a Boston Red Sox minor league team.

Amidst a backdrop of the impressive, newly built jetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., the New Zealand-born softball star is continuing his transition to baseball at his second spring-training appearance.

Having been here before, Bishop feels like he’s getting the hang of things.

“I definitely feel more comfortable this time around,” Maori boy said after finishing his training for the day. “I know the game a lot more after having actually played baseball.”

For Bishop, who was signed by the Red Sox last February, switching from softball to baseball, and training for the new sport in the U.S. has presented some challenges.

“Baseball is so much more serious than softball,” he said. “You have to put everything into it. There’s a huge difference.”

So far Bishop has demonstrated his willingness to play the game.

“He’s been working really hard,” fellow Red Sox prospect, Boss Moanaroa, said. “You can definitely see progression from last season.”

Bishop’s improving baseball abilities have much to do with the time he spent at the Major League Baseball Australian Academy Program (MLBAAP) on the Gold Coast following spring training in Fort Myers last season.

“My experience in Australia was pretty much similar to [spring training] here. It is just as strict,” the New Zealander said.

“Going there was the best decision for me,” Bishop continued. “There, I got a lot of game time playing almost everyday. If I had stayed here, I wouldn’t have gotten that chance.”

Bishop batted .288 in the MLBAAP last year, recording 38 hits and 16 runs in 132 at bats.

Another reason for Bishop’s apparent progress in baseball might have to do with the company he keeps. Moanaroa, an Australian native with Maori parents, befriended the young New Zealander at last year’s spring training and is rooming with him this year.

“He’s a good friend and a great person,” Bishop said. “Knowing that we pretty much come from the same place, I feel more comfortable around him than I would if I was rooming with someone random.

Aside from making Bishop feel more comfortable, Moanarao has also provided his Maori teammate with sound guidance.

“We talk about baseball all the time,” Moanaroa said.  “I give him advice – stay with it, listen, and take in as much information from the coaches as you can so you can be a better player mentally and physically.

“He needs a lot of work because he’s so new to the sport, but he knows he has to work hard, especially since there are so many people here who want his spot.”

Growing up in New Zealand, Bishop was not granted the same opportunities in baseball as his American counterparts.

“Baseball was always kind of a fantasy,” the Red Sox catching prospect said. “We would see it on TV and think ‘if only that was in New Zealand.'”

The fulfillment of Bishop’s fantasy will continue in Fort Myers for the rest of the month, but he hopes it will lead to a spot on a Red Sox minor league team for the upcoming season.