Hundley has rewarding experience Down Under

Hundley has rewarding experience Down Under

Hundley has rewarding experience Down Under
SAN DIEGO -- Less than a day removed from a 12-hour flight home from New Zealand, Padres catcher Nick Hundley went through his usual preseason paces on Thursday during a voluntary workout at Petco Park.

Hundley caught pitchers in the bullpen, took batting practice and then stuck around to run sprints afterward with the sun bearing down on him the entire time.

"As soon as the jet lag wears off, I'll be ready for Spring Training again," said Hundley, who returned to San Diego late Wednesday after spending eight days in New Zealand.

Hundley, along with friend and Red Sox pitcher Mark Melancon and Blue Jays outfielder/infielder Chris Woodward, spent five days in New Zealand providing instruction in a country where cricket and rugby reign supreme.

"It was great," Hundley said. "We got to run around and play with the younger kids and introduce them to the game. Then they have an 18-and-over national team that we worked with as well.

"We got the chance to talk to them, work with them and give them an idea of how we got where we are."

Melancon is no stranger to New Zealand, as he went on a similar trip a year ago. Then in June, he talked to Hundley -- the two were teammates at the University of Arizona and Melancon was an usher at Hundley's wedding -- about taking a trip there with him again.

"He asked me to come and do some camps," Hundley said. "I thought about it for a while, and then me and my wife [Amy] thought about it and jumped at it. It was sort of a once-in-a-lifetime trip. We really enjoyed it."

The players worked with three age groups: players aged five to 13, 14-and-older and then the 18-and-over national team.

"They're not as far away as you think, but there's some ground that needed to be made up," Hundley said of the skill level of the players. "They just don't have the opportunity to play consistently like we would."

Hundley got a chance to attend a professional cricket match featuring the Auckland Aces of the Auckland Cricket Association. One of the Auckland players later showed Hundley where the team trains, and much more.

"We strapped on their gear and hit a few balls," Hundley said. "... It was sort of strange."

Hundley, Melancon and Woodward also attended a basketball game which featured the SKYCITY Breakers of the National Basketball League.

"That place was rocking," Hundley said. "It was so loud."

All told, the trip included five days of baseball and three days of relaxing. Hundley went fly fishing during a three-day jaunt to South Island, which is one of the two major islands of New Zealand.

By the time his plane landed on Wednesday night, Hundley's mind was back on baseball -- as well as the start of Spring Training -- as pitchers and catchers report to Peoria, Ariz. on Feb. 19.

"Before the trip, I felt I was ready to start Spring Training ... especially with where my swing was," Hundley said. "The only reason I went [to New Zealand] was [because] I was able to maintain baseball activities.

"If it were eight days of vacation in January, I wouldn't do it. But we were able to work out and hit."

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.