Winning the Softball World Cup in Christchurch this year was the highlight of Mark Sorenson’s career. That’s saying something. Sorenson, one of softball’s legends, has been an integral part of four world champion teams since he debuted aged 17 during New Zealand’s winning 1984 campaign in Michigan.
It’s always special winning the World Cup, but this time was something else. “The best…the big thing was winning here at home. It was here on TV. Played in front a lot of people. Plenty of runs, plenty of action, a bit of biffo…I’m very excited, very happy, deeply proud.”
There was incredible tension between the Canadians, now suffering from a chronic case of sour grapes, and the Black Sox, particularly in the final. “You could cut the air with a knife. All the balls to the wall and off to battle. The most intense softball I’ve ever played.”
Sorenson, 36, from the Hutt, retired as the Black Sox’s captain in 2001 after clocking up a record 206 appearances. He was persuaded to return this year and stepped up to the plate in superb form; of the New Zealand players, he had the number one batting average with .458 runs per inning. In a fairy-tale ending Sorenson sealed the victory for the Black Sox in the final. In the bottom of the third inning, Sorenson hit a huge home run over the centre field fence to score captain Jarrad Martin and Stacy McLean. As Martin put it: “Couldn’t happen to a better guy.”
Martin praises Sorenson’s skill and leadership. “He’ll go down as one of the best players ever to play the game…his focus and his dedication, it’s hard to do. It’s gotta take its toll on the body and the mind. He’s been able to do it with ease.” Sorenson returns the kudos to Martin, his successor, who he says coped with the considerable challenges of the captaincy and the tournament fantastically.
Sorenson is very happy with the financial support and media coverage softball receives at the moment. (The exception would be radio’s Graeme Hill. “Not worth the breath that goes into the guy’s body.”) He says work provides “a bit of balance.” If softball became professional it could well be a bad thing. “Money can cloud things. Possibly take your eye of the ball. The US team [at the champs] was a good example.”
Sorenson says softball is a sport of finesse, grace and multicultural appeal. As his commitment to the sport suggests, he loves it. “The short nature, fast pace…It’s a challenging game.” However, unsurprisingly, when it comes to international softball, he says he’s definitely hanging up his boots now.