Part of their culture

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald The New Zealand junior men’s softball team preformed the pre-game Haka dance ahead of their game against the United States Sunday at Rotary Field.

For fans that are attending the 2018 WBSC Junior Men’s Softball World Championship this week, it’s worth arriving to the Max Power Ball Parks ahead of time when New Zealand is slated to play.

Otherwise, you’ll miss out on the traditional Haka war cry that the team does every time they take to the field.

“It still sends tingles up my spine,” New Zealand coach and long time national team player Thomas Makea said. “It’s awesome to be a part of it as a player and it’s just as awesome to watch our young men do it as a coach.

“The Haka is huge for us. It’s part of our culture and for the players it’s a reminder of playing hard for the guys who have worn the jersey before us.”

The Haka originated as a war dance preformed by Maroi warriors before a battle, as it proclaimed their strength and prowess in order to intimidate the opposition.

In 1888, the New Zealand Native rugby union team performed the Haka for the first time at a match in Surrey, England and squads from the country have been doing it ever since, with the most notable side being the All Blacks rugby team that has won three World Championships.

“The first time I ever saw the Haka was when I watched the All Blacks play as a kid,” outfielder Jared Gillard said. “To be able to do it now is truly amazing, especially when we do the Haka away from home as it let’s everyone know where we are from.

“It gets your heart rate going before the game gets started,” infielder Brad Carson added. “Doing the Haka gets you up for taking on your opponent as it builds up the fierceness and gets you ready for battle.”

Having won back-to-back silver medals at the World Championship and earning the top overall seed for this year’s tournament, New Zealand has lived up to their billing in round-robin play.

They outscored their opponents by a 21-1 margin this weekend to sit tied with Canada for first place in Group B with a 2-0 record ahead of a game against the Czech Republic Monday night.

“What I’m really happy with is how well our defensive play has been,” Makea said.

“Obviously we’re pleased with how well we’ve been hitting the ball, but we really take pride with how we field the ball. We had no errors against the United States Sunday and that’s really pleasing to see as a coach.”

With a marquee matchup set for Tuesday at 8 p.m. with Canada, New Zealand is focusing on making sure that their excitement levels are up to snuff before a game that could determine who will finish on top of their group.

“We need to keep our energy levels up in the dugout for the whole game instead of having it die off in the middle,” Gillard said.

“When we played against the United States, we had our tempo up and we stayed loud in the dugout, which really threw them off balance in the first inning when we scored seven runs.”

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