Quakes Spotlight: America's Cup more than just a race for Jason Batty

Though soccer is his first passion, the New Zealand native delights in America's Cup action

It hasn’t been the smoothest of sailing for the Earthquakes this season, but the team is tacking in the right direction in the final stages.

That suits goalkeeper coach Jason Batty just fine.

The native of Auckland, New Zealand would probably love nothing more than to see Jon Busch work another shutout on Saturday night against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. But he’s also delighting in San Francisco’s America’s Cup action, in which Emirates Team New Zealand has been crushing Oracle Team USA.

“This is a great opportunity for us to take (the cup) back to New Zealand again,” Batty said.

Indeed, it’s an exciting time for Batty and his family.

The soccer is front and center, but it’s impossible to be a Kiwi these days without having at least one eye cocked toward the San Francisco Bay. The America’s Cup is like the Super Bowl of sailing, and sailing has long been a keeper for Auckland natives.

“I think it’s been great,” Batty said of the America’s Cup. “I’ve been out to the village and had a look around.”

Jason has been a busy man these days. In addition to putting the Quakes’ goalkeepers through their normal paces and youth coaching, he’s entertaining his parents, John and Sue, who are visiting from New Zealand for three weeks. Mom and dad have been hanging out with Jason, his wife Jess and the couples’ two children.

Though it’s a soccer trip, John and Sue did soak up some America’s Cup action on Thursday when the Kiwis upped their lead in points to 6-0 over the reeling Oracle boat. Team New Zealand needed just three more wins to reclaim the cup.

“They loved it,” Batty said of the experience, in which the family took in spectacular views of Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge. John’s birthday party is Friday, so it’s been pretty hectic for Jason getting everything organized.

His parents will attend Saturday’s crucial match against Vancouver and Tuesday’s home game against the Montreal lmpact in the CONCACAF Champions League.

“It’s been good. We don’t get to see him very often, so it’s nice,” Jason said.

Jason Batty was basically raised on the water in his home country. He also played professional soccer for 14 seasons in England, Singapore, New Zealand and the United States. He earned 55 caps for New Zealand’s national team.

Sailing touches the soul of Auckland natives. On a typical weekend, Jason recalls seeing 60 to 70 boats sailing in the Auckland area captained by skippers ranging from age 5 to retirees.

“Auckland is very coastline-orientated. We grew up about a mile from the water," Batty said. "One of the number one yacht-training clubs was about three beaches away, or like a 5 minute drive.”

Jason’s parents bought a house when he was a teenager that literally looks out onto the harbor.

He remembers fondly watching the 2000 America’s Cup races in Auckland from his family’s yard, along with eight to 10 of his buddies. Team New Zealand retained the cup in 2000, defeating Italian Prada Challenge.

“The whole city was basically a party,” he recalled. “We went down a viaduct area, which is kind of where the wharf is right now, but there were restaurants and bars pretty much as far as the eye could see.”

In his sixth year with the Quakes, Jason has been instrumental in the development of the team’s keepers. In 2012, Busch, who always seems to be in the right spot fronting the net, was selected to the MLS All-Star team. David Bingham was named to U.S. National U-23 Team training camp in Germany in 2011.

In 2010, Batty’s goalkeeping crew posted a franchise-record 13 shutouts during the regular season, and Busch was especially solid down the stretch after Joe Cannon suffered a season-ending fractured ankle. Cannon was a rock in 2008, playing in every minute of every match.

Before joining the Earthquakes, Batty was the Director of Goalkeeping for Texas Premier SC. He was also as an assistant at Dartmouth College.

But it’s all been a labor of love.

“I enjoy going to work each day,” he said.

- Richter Media