Whitehorse Daily Star

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MORE THAN A GAME – New Zealand assistant coach Jarrad Martin reads a book to Marek Stehelin last week.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

SLIP AND SLIDE – New Zealand’s Bradley Bennett slides safely into second as Denmark’s Mads Gregersen leaps for the ball Sunday. New Zealand would go on to win the game 18-0 in three innings.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

THE HAKA – New Zealand players have performed their tribal dance prior to each of their world championship games this week.

Kiwis lauded for ‘incredibly thoughtful’ hospital visit

The haka – a fearsome Maori warrior dance – wouldn’t seem to mesh well with compassion. But New Zealand proved the two go hand in hand this week.

By Christopher Reynolds on July 16, 2014

The haka – a fearsome Maori warrior dance – wouldn’t seem to mesh well with compassion. But New Zealand proved the two go hand in hand this week.

Two team leaders stopped in at the B.C. Children’s Hospital last week to lift the spirits of Marek Stehelin, a young patient from Whitehorse.

Marek, who turns three in October, is fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

“We know that those battles are tougher than what ours are at the moment,” said assistant coach Jarrad Martin.

“We just spent half an hour with him chatting with his mom and his grandmother.”

He and the squad’s assistant manager brought Marek a book – part of the Harry Maclary children’s series out of New Zealand – and read him stories.

“He was in real good spirits,” Martin said.

Marek was back in Whitehorse and watching the New Zealand-Argentina match yesterday following chemotherapy treatments.

He even caught a glimpse of the team’s blood-curdling ancestral chant.

“The haka for us is a war dance that we used to do,” Martin explained. “The Maori used to use it as a challenge towards the enemy, nothing derogatory, just to say, ‘Hey, we’re standing up, we’re walking toward the challenge and if you want to take the challenge, then bring it on.”

The demonstration — performed before each game by the New Zealanders — must have had an impact, his mother said today.

“He now thinks baseball is something he really wants to do,” Amanda Stehelin told the Star.

“‘Look, it’s my baseball team,’” he cried from the bleachers Tuesday.

“It was incredibly thoughtful and kind,” she added of the team’s hospital visit.

“They had read an article in your newspaper online and were amazing enough ... (to) put an effort into cheering up a little boy who was feeling pretty awful.”

Marek met the whole New Zealand squad yesterday.

Martin said the visit was good for the team as well, elevating the game.

“It was a little bit of something that would sink in, that would bring them home a little bit, to say that there are little kids out there that need help, and what we’re doing here is just playing a game, but he’s having it tough.”

Even with Marek’s spirit of perseverance, however, the Kiwis couldn’t stave off the relentless Argentines at the Pepsi Softball Centre yesterday.

With only one run on the scoreboard, the tournament’s sole South American squad loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth.

New Zealand’s top pitcher Blake Radford hit batter Teo Migliavacca, walking in a run. Three batters later, outfielder Felipe Vuoto whacked in two more on a single to right field.

Another single and one last RBI capped off Argentina’s hot streak.

The score stayed static at 5-0 through the final two innings, leaving the victors alone in top spot – with zero runs against in the entire tournament.

Going into the its sixth day, New Zealand remains in second place, with 36 per cent of the 14 runs it’s suffered overall coming from yesterday’s game.

“It was a pretty good game for the team,” said Argentine pitcher Roman Godoy, whose bullish confidence and nearly 80-mph pitches made for an intimidating presence on the mound.

“But it’s not about intimidation of the players,” he said. “It’s just about the way we feel. So it’s all about putting that on the ball and doing our best.

“We’re getting better and I’m sure we’re going to win the tournament,” Godoy added.

Meanwhile, Marek is progressing well, his toddler determination buoyed by the players and the game.

His mother noted that despite a long, painful road of chemotherapy over the next three years, Marek has a form of leukemia that’s beaten more than 90 per cent of the time by sufferers.

“Aside from the fact that the New Zealand Black Sox made the effort to come and see him, there’s also so many other people that have made an effort to help, and I just want to put a big shout out to Whitehorse in general,” said Marek’s mother.

Local groups, entertainers and Yukon residents have helped raise money for the family to compensate for the financial toll of a sick child in a six-person household.

Marek’s Facebook page says that donations are welcome.

Comments (4)

Up 0 Down 0

Henner on Jul 19, 2014 at 5:53 am

Very classy to take time out for such a worthy cause.

Up 4 Down 0

Brian Ropitini on Jul 17, 2014 at 5:33 pm

Well done Jarrad and the NZ team for taking time out to spend with others in need.

Up 8 Down 1

Sean O'Brien on Jul 17, 2014 at 4:26 pm

Great job Jazz!! Awesome to see. Keep it up!!

Up 9 Down 3

Holly Pettigrew on Jul 17, 2014 at 8:45 am

Wow how exciting!

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