Nov 28, 2010

Thoughts on Blue Sox vs Bandits doubleheader

Last night the Brisbane Bandits met the Sydney Blue Sox at the Blacktown Olympic Park for a doubleheader. There was a lot of really good baseball played, and both games were very close - despite the scoreline in the second game.

As we drove in to the park, hoping that it was not going to rain, I noticed two things that were different from the last game I attended. Firstly, the 'Standing Room Only' signs were up, which was great. And secondly, they have started giving out these neat little parking tickets:

The crowd at the game was really good, probably due to the fact there were a heap of kids there. The ground announcer and the team mascot got a lot stronger responses than they had previously. The second game got really close late in the game and the crowd was cheering and clapping as each pitch was delivered. A few 'rally sox' were also seen circulating wildly. This is all great to see, it seems a real pity when you get into a real close situation in the game and the crowd just sits there. Hopefully as the season goes on, this will continue to improve.

Off the field, it continues to be a well-run operation. Like the other games I have been to, the Sox continued to have the batting tunnels and other kids activities available, as well as a pretty good range of food. The Blue Sox have taken on board some fan feedback, and they now have a wider range of beer available - nice one!

The CEO of the ABL, Peter Wermuth was seen among the crowd at the game. At one stage he was leading around a delegation of US visitors, showing the facilities and talking about some of the work they are doing to bring the game to life. Later in the night he was sitting among the fans behind home plate watching the action unfold.

Now, to the on field action.

Friday night's game had seen the Bandits give the Blue Sox quite a resounding 6-1 loss. Game One of the doubleheader last night saw a very close affair, with neither side able to assert themselves offensively. For the Blue Sox, David Welch was dominant - striking out eight over six innings of work. Ryan Searle was pretty good for the Bandits, and I am a little surprised his record is now 3-0. He kept the Sox pretty quiet, and their first run came off a balk in the third inning. Some good situational hitting from Tim Auty plated another in the third, and the Sox also scored in the sixth inning courtesy of a Boss Moanaroa double which was followed up by a single to Michael Lysaught.

Predictably, Koo came on to close things out for the Blue Sox in the seventh. While he allowed one run, there was never much doubt, and he punched out Ryan Battaglia to end the game - Sox won 3-1.

The second game was interesting. Chris Oxspring started out very strongly, with six strikeouts over the first five innings. By the sixth inning, the Sox had picked up three runs and were sailing quite comfortably. The Bandits then picked up a few runs in the sixth, thanks mainly to a big double from David Sutherland.

I didn't pick up on this during the game, but reviewing the box score now I see that Chris Mowday retired 14 of the 15 Blue Sox hitters that he faced. All he gave up was a walk to David Kandilas. In five games against the Blue Sox, Mowday has pitched 7.1 innings, allowing 5 hits and 0 runs. He has struck out six, and that walk to Kandilas was his first walk of the season.


The game was decided in the top of the eleventh, when some plucky hitting from Wade Dutton and Shuhei Fukuda led to the Bandits having runners on two and three and none out. The Blue Sox then intentionally walked Brad Dutton. Akira Nakamura stepped in and slotted a neat sac fly to Mitch Dening in centre field, allowing Wade Dutton to score. Josh Roberts then popped out, and there was 2 out, with the Blue Sox looking at a 4-3 deficit going into the bottom of the inning. Sox reliever Matt Williams - who had managed to avoid any major dramas, despite finding it hard to find the zone early - then composed himself and struck out Mitch Nilsson. 

However, Pat Maat spilled the ball, and by the time he regathered it, rose to his feet and started moving, the fleet footed young Nilsson had zipped up the line and made it safe to first. 

Disappointing, but surely just a bump in the road....

David Sutherland steps in, and hits a hard - although regulation - grounder to Michael Lysaught at short. Lysaught had not had a great night, grounding into two double plays. He bobbled the ball and was unable to make the short throw to second to secure the force out and end the inning. Shuhei Fukuda scored, taking it to 5-3 Bandits.

This was the beginning of the end for the Blue Sox. Rory Rhodes singled, plating two. Andrew Campbell hit a towering double to left field, plating another two, and Wade Dutton and Shuhei Fukuda picked up singles, scoring more. Brad Dutton then hit a double to right field to score another two. By the end of the massacre, it was 12-3 to the Bandits.

Funnily enough we went from a tied game to a potential mercy rule situation in the space of half an inning. It just does to show that errors lose baseball games. All up, both teams scored three earned runs. The difference was Brisbane's nine unearned runs. 

While the scoreline didn't flatter the Blue Sox, the game was pretty good quality.

The Bandits seem to have a reasonably good pitching side. The Bandits currently lead the league in ERA with 2.56. Their bullpen is pretty solid, with Mowday, Morriss, Veitch and Stockman pitching very well. Mowday was just outstanding. I was desperately waiting for him to stuff something up, or go for a big hit, so I could call out and tell him to get a haircut - but it just didn't happen. He had a strong impact on the game, and really took the wind out of the Blue Sox hitters. As long as their hitters can fire - like they did in game two tonight - the Bandits pitching will keep them in the game.

Elsewhere, it was great to see the Melbourne Aces finally get their home opener in the book after some washouts earlier this weekend. They did it in style, beating the Cavalry twice today. I look forward to next weekend when the Blue Sox take them on at BOP.

For more pictures from Saturday's games, check out this album.

Nov 21, 2010

Blue Sox vs Bandits: Craig Anderson to take the mound

The Blue Sox give the ball to Craig Anderson today as they try to tie the series against the Bandits. Read more about Craig here.

6 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Trip to the Ball Game

Now that the Australian Baseball League is back, a whole new generation of Aussie sports fans is getting the opportunity to enjoy high quality professional baseball. Since baseball is not one of the more widely known sports in Australia, there is a lack of general understanding of how to enjoy a baseball game. Going to the cricket or the footy is a staple of any young Aussie sports fan's diet. However, baseball is a little different and new. With that in mind, here are 6 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Trip to the Ball Game.

1. Take the kids and spend some time trying to souvenir a foul ball

Any kid who has spent time at a professional baseball game will tell you one of the best parts is trying to get your hands on a foul ball. At most Australian sports, such as any code of football, or cricket, spectators are required to return any balls that have left the field of play. This is not so at a game of baseball, and in any game, many dozens of balls are hit out of the field of play. Every time a hitter hits a foul ball out of play, it's fair game for anyone nearby.

I look back very fondly on the old Australian Baseball League, where games were played at Parramatta Stadium, back before the stadium was fully developed as it is now. Many a foul ball was hit onto the hill, and it was always a mad scramble to be the first kid to take the catch [or to come out of the ensuing scrum with the ball in hand]. What better way to improve a young whippersnapper's agility, catching ability and speed than by encouraging him (or her!) to try and snare a souvenir at the game.

2. Get to the game early and watch batting practice

Many teams warm up their hitters on the ground about an hour or so before game time. This can be a great way for you to appreciate the skill and power of the players. It is also a good way to kick back, and to see the players in a more relaxed setting. Usually at this time the crowd has not built up, so you have plenty of room to move around and find somewhere comfortable. The players too will be feeling relaxed. It can be interesting to watch them go through certain drills - trying to hit the ball to a certain side of the field, or simply hitting for power. Watching batting practice is a great way to develop an understanding of the strengths of your team's offense.

3. Focus on one aspect of the game and watch it closely

Baseball is a multi-dimensional game. At any time there are at least two things going on: a hitter trying to successfully reach base, and a defense trying to stop him. Once runners reach base, different elements of the game come in to play as well. The pitcher and catcher concentrate on keeping baserunners honest. Position players adjust their alignment depending on the situation, and coaches put on different plays. Different situations have different tactics and strategies, and complex signalling is used to communicate with the players

If you are learning about the game, pick one aspect of the game and watch it closely. You could focus on hitting - look at where the hitter hits the ball, was it a deliberate ploy to hit it there? Did he produce anything from his effort, even if he got out himself? Can you figure out what sort of pitch he prefers to hit?

Or, you could focus on defense. Where do the infielders stand at certain times? How does it change as the game progresses?

One of the reasons I love baseball is that EVERY player has a role to play EVERY time the ball is put in play. When the hitter smashes the ball to deep center field - the centerfielder clearly has a job to do, but so does the first baseman, the pitcher, and the players on the infield. Similarly, even on a ground ball to third base, the outfielders should be moving.

Don't feel you have to watch the ball all the time. You can also pick out a position and watch it every play. This will help show all the defensive assignments each position undertakes during the game. This can also be interesting as it will highlight which players work hard during the game, and which players get lazy.
4. Enjoy the cuisine

They say 'when in Rome, do as the Romans do'. Well, when you're at a baseball game, you should do as the Americans do - have a hot dog and a beer. You could grab a dog and a cold one to watch batting practice or the opening pitch. Or, you could take a minute to run to the food stand during a slow point in the game (yes, they do happen). Or, you could do both!!!

Hot dog.



A marriage of three great American pastimes.

5. Learn how to keep score

A baseball game usually takes more than two or three hours, and by its very nature is going to see each hitter get at least three shots at the plate. Most fields have reasonable quality scoreboards and ground announcers, however trying to remember what happened to each hitter each time they appeared will take a superhuman effort. To get the best information about the game, there is no better option than to score it yourself.

There are a wide range of scoring methods - ranging from very simple to very complex. A simple approach might track only the outcome of each at-bat, whereas a complex system will capture details of every pitch thrown.

The advantage of scoring yourself is that you get a great understanding of exactly what each hitter did each time they appeared. This can add to your experience late in the game when you can recall what happened last time the hitter appeared, and assess how the defense might approach the situation.

Often when I have gone to the game and have not kept score myself, I find myself in the later innings asking 'what did he do last time?' or 'has he got a hit?'. Taking along a scorecard means this is never a problem, and it can be a conversation starter for those around you - as you can bet that they will have the same questions.

You can learn how to score a baseball game at, or at, which also provides a range of free scorecards to download.

6. Get close to the action

Perhaps the best thing to do at the game is to wander around to different vantage points and get up close to the action. The power, control and speed shown by professional baseballers is impressive. To get the best sense of the athleticism, see if you can get a good spot close behind the catcher. Alternatively get close to the bullpen and watch the pitchers warming up. At most grounds in Australia it is possible to get within metres of the pitchers, so you can really get an appreciation of just how hard and effectively they throw the ball. You can also get in nice and close for a good sledge if you are that way inclined.

Most teams in the ABL will also spend some time after the game chatting with fans and giving autographs. If you have picked up a program, or managed to snare a foul ball, drop by the dugout after the game and pick up a few autographs - you never know, some of the guys running round the ABL might crack the big time down the track, and you will be able to say you were there when they were roughing it!

Got any other suggestions on how to enjoy a baseball game? Leave a comment below or let me know on twitter @ozmlbplayers

Nov 20, 2010

Who is Quincy Latimore?

Two weeks into the Australian Baseball League competition, one player who has consistently excelled offensively has been the Adelaide Bite's Quincy Latimore. Through seven games, he is 12-for-29 (.414 average) with 4 home runs and 10 RBIs, and 2 stolen bases. As I am writing this, he has started off proceedings against the Heat by slapping an RBI double! So who is this kid?

The 21-year-old hails from Raleigh, North Carolina and was a 4th round draft pick for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2007 draft. Since then, he has played four years in the Pirates' minor league system and in 2010 he had a bit of a breakout year. Playing for the Bradenton Marauders in the high-A Florida State League, Latimore led the league in RBIs, with 100, and was second in the league in homers, with 19. He was also successful in 11 of 12 stolen base attempts. He was nominated for the high-A Best Hitter award.

Baseball Prospectus ranks him in the top 20 Pirates Prospects, but says that his 'horrible approach' holds him back. also commented that Latimore's strikeout figures need improving - but recognised that he has power.

Since mid-2009 Bucs fans have debated whether or not he is a legitimate prospect for making it to the big leagues. His detractors focus on poor plate disicipline and walk rates - that is, he strikes out too much. They also emphasised his fielding and baserunning as weaknesses. As he started to hit his straps during the 2010 season, some suggested that a helpful hitting home field could have contributed to his improved numbers.

You can read an interview with Quincy at Envision Sports Media. He talks about his focus on improving his hitting, his aspirations to progress through the minor leagues, and his commitment to religion. 

Regardless of whether he is a legitimate prospect or not, Latimore is certainly an exciting player to watch, and a great feature of the ABL. His time in Australia will hopefully give him some good experience and the opportunity to face a few high-calibre pitchers, and one would think he would be aiming to get some time in Double-A ball next year. So get out to an Adelaide game and check him out.

Nov 14, 2010

Blue Sox Game 3: Call the Cavalry, Blue Sox bats, Canberra errors invoke mercy rule

The third game of the Blue Sox-Cavalry series was played out tonight, with the Blue Sox getting the job done 13-3 in humid conditions at Blacktown Olympic Park. The game was very different from the first two games in the series. Perhaps it was the hot, wet air that had descended on the Park, but there were quite a few unorthodox plays and situations. Sydney showed that their lineup has some depth, with 8 of their hitters picking up hits. For Canberra, there were some positives offensively, but a few defensive lapses and some inconsistent pitching was enough to take the game away.

The teams took the field for the national anthem
The Blue Sox showed that they are a team who can get the ball in play and capitalise on the opportunities given to them. The scoreboard suggests that they really gave the Cavalry a flogging, but this was not really the case. They put the ball in play and ran hard. They were patient in the box when the Cavalry pitchers were struggling. All in all, they played smart baseball. Lundgren's outing was very solid, giving up only 3 hits and 2 walks over 5 innings, and striking out 4. Also impressive were Alex Johnson, who looked strong in the batting box; Mark Holland, who picked up three RBIs courtesy of his sixth inning double, and; David Kandilas, who continued to impress in all aspects - solid as a rock in right field, and a reliable and pesky nine hitter.

It wasn't all bad for the Cavalry. Steve Kent showed strong form again, it is just a shame he is not going longer into the game. While he struggled in the field, Michael Collins was handy with the bat, picking up three hits. Donald Lutz and Tom Vincent also showed some promise with the bat. The game might have ended differently if it wasn't for a few unfortunate defensive lapses in the sixth.

It looks like Glenn Williams is pretty settled on his lineup, but tonight he gave Boss Moanaroa a rest, giving Alex Johnson the start at first base. The Cavalry lineup was a little different to the lineup from the opener last week, with Michael Collins joining the team behind the dish, and a few other positional shifts coming in as a result.  

Since this was not the season opener, much of the pomp and ceremony was missing tonight, although it was still a reasonably slick presentation. The crowd was officially shown as just under a thousand, but it seemed pretty full and vocal from where I sat. There were no fireworks today, and no ex-Australian Idol contestant to sing the national anthem - although this was probably a good thing, at least we got all the words. The ground announcing and the music was good, but some special effects were playing up. One thing that is a negative is the beer. Not good Blue Sox. Not good at all. This 'Rocks Brewing Company' or whatever it is is not going to pick up any market share by force feeding the stuff to the patrons at Blue Sox games - sorry!

The crowd during the early innings of tonight's game

Wayne Lundgren took the mound for the Blue Sox, and started positively, retiring the side in order in the first. He showed plenty of control and power and threw only about half a dozen pitches in the first. Trent D'Antonio then stepped up to lead off the bottom of the inning with standing double to deep center. Things looked positive when this was backed up by a walk to Tim Auty. At this stage, Cavalry Ace Steve Kent looked a bit shaky and was having trouble finding the zone. With runners on one and two with none out, Mitch Dening then hit a deep fly ball to center, which allowed D'Antonio to progress to third. The old coach's adage of trying to score one run per inning looked a sure bet, until Pat 'Kwik-E' Maat stepped in and promptly grounded into an inning ending double play.

The top of the second came up, and I was excited to see Michael Collins play, as I have loosely followed his minor league travels over the past couple of years. And of course, any Aussie who features on a baseball card is a winner in my books [I am easily pleased], and Mikey happens to grace quite a few:

He left a good impression in the top of the second [though later in the game he had some defensive difficulties, more on that later] - hitting a crisp single to left field.  He the crossed the plate, following a hit to Tom Vincent and a couple of ground outs.  Kent then came out and retired the Blue Sox without much trouble, and the Cavalry led 1-0 after two innings.

The third inning saw Lundgren maintain his effectiveness, retiring the Cavalry without score despite a couple of walks. Like in the first game of the series, Steve Kent was then pulled from the game, to be replaced with veteran knuckleballer Phil Brassington.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the introduction of the knuckleballer was when things started to get a bit strange. Brassington had a little trouble finding the zone against the first hitter he faced - Dave Kandilas - and eventually hit him with a 2-2 fastball. Collins was having a little of trouble behind the dish, and bobbled quite a few of Brassington's knucklers. The walk to Kandilas brought up the top of the order, with D'Antonio stepping in. His patient approach drew him a walk, which moved Kandilas over to second. Brassington reverted to a few more fastballs [although 'straightball' would probably be closer to the mark], but still couldn't hit the zone with Tim Auty. He managed to throw one that got away from Collins, which moved the runners over. Auty then proceeded to smack single to left field, scoring both Kandilas and D'Antonio, and advancing to second on the throw.

Brassington then started to hit his straps some more, and struck out both Mitch Dening and Pat 'Kwik-E' Maat - but not before throwing another wild pitch, which allowed Auty to progress to third. Andy Graham then drove a single to left field, bringing in Auty, and taking it to 3-1 Blue Sox.

Another passed ball saw Graham move over to two. Then it was time for the Blue Sox to show that it was not just the Cavalry who could play some strange ball. Alex Johnson hit a strong shot out to right field, which brought Andy Graham home. Johnson though tried to make it to second, but was caught out by a strong throw from Collins to Didi Gregorius standing on second base.

The fourth and fifth innings passed without much to write home about. The top of the Canberra lineup really failed to get firing. In the bottom of the fifth, the Cavalry replaced Brassington with the younger, faster, Michael Lennox. With one out, Pat Maat earned a walk, and Andy Graham then hit a regulation double play ball straight to second baseman Andrew Schmidt. Schmidt tried to be a bit clever by passing the ball with his glove hand to Gregorius to turn the double. This was definitely one of those 'it seemed like a great idea at the time' moments for Schmidt, but it failed dismally, leaving Gregorius to be cleaned up royally by the rampaging Pat Maat, who came bustling into second. Alex Johnson then loaded the bases with a single to center, but Lennox was able to strike out Lysaught and Holland to end the inning.

The sixth inning was where this game was won and lost. The top of the inning was an exciting affair. The Blue Sox handed the ball to Shane Benson, and the Cavalry looked to Michael Collins again to lead things off. He did so, with a well hit single out to right field. Tom Vincent then stepped in and hit what should have been a routine double play ball. However, a deflection off Benson's glove meant second baseman Mark Holland was not able to get his balance, and he bobbled the ball, allowing Collins to progress to two, while Vincent reached first. Donald Lutz then stepped in and hit a booming fly ball to right field. If ever there was a play that highlighted why it would be great to have video screens available for replays at the BOP, it was this one. Collins and Vincent took off, both looking to score on the play, and Vincent showed real speed - both he and Collins came tumbling around third at the same time - Vincent literally in Collins' back pocket. Meanwhile, young David Kandilas, who has been really  impressive in the field, snared the ball quickly and fired it in to Pat Maat at the plate. Maat turned to see not one, but two runners bearing down on him. Somehow Collins managed to avoid the tag and score safely, but Vincent barrelled straight into him and was given out, as Maat managed to hold on to the ball.

In the bottom of the sixth - no doubt as a reflection on his troubles handling things behind the dish - Michael Collins was moved to first base, with Kyle Perkins coming in to catch. However, Collins was not able to avoid the action - on the first play Dave Kandilas smacked a hard hit ball to third. Cavalry third baseman Kyu-Hyun Moon did a great job of picking up the ball, but he threw it in the dirt to Collins at one. It was not an easy scoop, but one that most first basemen would get, but it was not Collins' night and he dropped it. Lucky for him the error was scored against Moon.

D'Antonio then struck out looking at a high fastball [hard luck after a 9-pitch at bat]. Tim Auty stepped in, and began striking some nails into the Cavalry coffin. Auty reached on a fielder's choice when Moon tried [and failed] to get Kandilas out at home. Dening was then out on an amazing catch to left fielder Seung-Hwa Lee to prevent him reaching base. So, with two outs Pat Maat stepped up and got a hit to center, moving Auty to  second. Pinch hitter Josh Dean then drew a walk to load the bases. Another wild pitch scored Auty and moved the other runners around, and Alex Johnson then walked to load the bases. Michael Lysaught then walked too, and this was enough for Canberra manager Steve Schrenk, who replaced Lennox with Luke Wilkins.

Wilkins did no favours for Lennox, serving up a fat pitch which Blue Sox second baseman Mark Holland feasted on - sending it screaming out to the left field warning track and clearing the bases. If that wasn't bad enough, David Kandilas then reached base for the second time in the inning, this time on a missed catch to right fielder Tom Vincent. D'Antonio then slapped a hit to center, and Auty reached base again when Moon booted a grounder. Eventually they managed to retire the side when Dening hit a weak grounder to short, which put Auty out at two. In the end, the Blue Sox came away with 8 runs, off 3 hits, 3 walks, 2 errors and a wild pitch.

The sixth inning for the Blue Sox was punctuated by a lot of little blue boxes - with eight runs coming in all up

Benson then closed out the Cavalry in the top of the seventh, and although Schmidt managed to score on a Michael Collins single, it wasn't enough, and the mercy rule was invoked. I was a little surprised when the announcer came on to say the game was over. There was a large Korean contingent present in the crowd, and like them I was looking forward to seeing Koo make a mess of the lefty-heavy Canberra lineup. But it wasn't to be tonight.

All in all it has been a dominant performance from the Blue Sox. They will face off against the Cavalry in the series finale Sunday at 1.30pm.

Nov 12, 2010

Bandits blitz heat while the Bite hold all the Aces

Week Two of the ABL teed off last night, with Adelaide beating a disappointing Melbourne 9-1 and the Bandits beating the Heat 8-3.

It seems that the crowds came out in fair numbers like the did for the Sydney opener last week. There were more than 1500 at both games. It seems there was a fair bit of feedback given from those in attendance at Brisbane, with the temporary benches and the PA system drawing some criticism.

Like the Blue Sox/Cavalry game last week, strong pitching was a key element of last nights games, with the exception of Melbourne. Paul Mildren dominated for the Bite, holding the Aces scoreless for seven innings while striking out five. For the Bandits, James Albury went 5 innings, allowing 4 walks but only 4 hits and 2  unearned runs.

Bite beat disappointing Melbourne, strong performance from brisbane.

crowd sizes - feedback re brisbane game

player performances
who was good

more than 1500 in brisbane

The Bandits christened their campaign with Lloyd, a relief pitcher with the New York Yankees in their 1996 and 1998 World Series wins, throwing the first ceremonial pitch to Bandits manager and Australian great Dave Nilsson.

brisbane management happy:

Bandits’ general manager Paul Gonzalez said he was nervous before the start of the game, but happy with the result.
“The energy in the RNA and the ballpark was fantastic,” he said. “We sell good baseball…and Australia has been starving for good baseball.”
ABL Chief Executive Officer Paul Wermuth was pleased with the size of the opening night crowd.
“Given the game was on a Thursday night, and that we announced the venue a very short time ago, we’re very pleased with the crowd,” he said.
“It’s only going to build from here and it was a great night, and RNA is such a great place…and it was a great level of baseball.”

Nov 11, 2010

ABL takes second steps

Last weekend saw the beginning of the new league, this weekend sees it take its second steps. There are two games on tonight, Perth vs Brisbane, and Adelaide vs Melbourne.

Opening for Brisbane will be James Albury. Albury is a 24-year old right-armer who played for the Oakland County Cruisers in 2010, and has about five years experience in the Minors. He racked up a great year in 2009 for the Midwest Sliders, going 6-2 from 10 starts, and was then signed by the White Sox in July. He went on to finish the year in class A ball with the awesomely named Kannopolis Intimidators (for the aspiring geographers out there, Kannopolis is in North-Carolina, and for anyone wondering why they are called the Intimidators, apparently the word  is NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt's nickname, and he owned the team for a while) where he went 5-2 from 9 starts, with a 4.79 ERA. He played 2010 at the Oakland County Cruisers (which, despite what you might think, not located in California, but in Michigan), where he went 6-5 from 14 starts with a 4.72 ERA. The season there wrapped up in September.

For the Heat, it is 22 year old Liam Baron. He has been playing college ball in the States for a few years. In 2010 he pitched  for the Gonzaga Bulldogs - both as a starter and out of the pen. His record of 0-7 and ERA of 5.79 would suggest he did not have the best of times. Interestingly enough, he has decided to 'postpone' a professional career (it seems he won an award for some sort of science project as a youngster, and was also no the dean's list at Linn Benton, so perhaps he wants to continue to study) . He was reasonably effective in the two warm up games for the heat, where he did not give up an earned run in 11.2 innings.

In Adelaide, Adam Blackley will be given the ball to face off against the Bite. The younger brother of Travis Blackley, Adam has slogged it out in the minors since 2003, culminating with a season of AA ball for the El Paso Diablos in 2008. He went 4-1, with a 3.95 ERA in the 2009 Claxton Shield, and then signed with the Amsterdam Pirates for the 2009 season. He returned to Australia for the 2009/2010 Claxton Shield, and went 2-0 for the Aces in 4 starts. He also featured in a couple of games from the pen.

For the Bite, fresh from a strong Claxton Shield in 2009/2010, Paul Mildren will take the mound.

Later this week, Sydney and Canberra will resume hostilities. Stay tuned for more updates.

Nov 7, 2010

ABL Game 1: Blue Sox open up the season with a win

The Sydney Blue Sox and Canberra Cavalry opened the new Australian Baseball League in style on Saturday night, with the Blue Sox running out 1-0 victors in a game dominated by defense. The Blue Sox benefited from some clutch hitting from centrefielder Mitch Dening, who slapped a 2-out single to score Tim Auty in the bottom of the eigth. The Cavalry were unable to overcome the Sydney pitching in the ninth, and Dae-Sung Koo closed out the game by striking out Nick Kimpton.

It has been a decade since we have had a professional baseball league in Australia, and the eyes of all local baseball enthusiasts were on Blacktown Olympic Park to see how the ABL would turn it on tonight. All in all, it has to be said that professionalism was the order of the day. Apart from some minor technical difficulties with a microphone, it was a very professional operation. Major League Baseball USA has thrown a fair bit of money behind this competition, and there seemed to be a good number of officials on hand to make sure a quality product was delivered.

There was plenty of ceremony about the occasion - in what could be seen as a somewhat self indulgent exercise, a helicopter flew in current ABL Baseball Operations Manager, Ben Foster, and a young lad to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. After the formalities , the general atmosphere was great. Off the field there was music, activities for kids, giveaways, mascots and a variety of food and merchandise stands. Many fans could be overheard reminiscing about the old Sydney Blues/Wave days, with games at Parramatta Stadium or Moore Park. In an obvious nod to another famous 'Sox' team, Sweet Caroline was played in the seventh inning stretch, and the crowd were happy to sing along. It was clear that all were very happy to be back at a pro ball game.

On the field, it was a dominant defensive display from both sides. Chris Oxspring threw a strike for the first pitch - and it was the first of many. Oxspring struck out 8 hitters over 6 innings and showed plenty of zip - regularly hitting 90mph - as well as good command and some very useful offspeed pitches. Oxspring was replaced by David Welch, who continued the dominance; striking out 2 of the 4 hitters he faced and continuing the shutout. Wayne Lundgren, Matt Williams and Dae-Sung Koo carried on the good work and closed out the game without giving up a hit.

On the other side of the ledger, Steve Kent went out very well, facing only 7 hitters over 2 innings of work. Presumably he was on a pitch count - as he was replaced by Michael Lennox after 2 digs. Following Lennox were two of the Korean imports: Jun-Hyeok Heo and Jung-Min Lee, who were also very effective.

Credit for the first hit of the new league went to Sydney's Tim Auty, who smacked a line drive to center in the first inning. But it was not until the fourth inning until we saw another hit. Canberra's thirdbaseman Kyu-Hyun Moon reached on a one-out single to right field. Things looked a little dangerous for the Blue Sox when Nick Kimpton backed this up immediately by slapping another shot to right field. However, Moon ambitiously tried to go from first to third, and tested out young David Kandilas' arm. Kandilas showed why the Rockies were keen to sign him when he threw a laser to Trent D'Antonio at third to easily catch out Moon.

The next real opportunity came in the bottom of the sixth. Again it was Kandilas and D'Antonio working together to fire up the Blue Sox. Kandilas led off with a walk, and D'Antonio stepped in to drive a single to left, moving Kandilas to second. Tim Auty then stepped in and laid down a textbook sacrifice bunt down the third baseline that was very nearly an infield single. This moved the runners across to second and third with one out. The Cavalry chose to walk Mitch Dening to get to Blue Sox designated hitter Pat Maat, who was unable to come through with the goods. He was followed by Andrew Graham, who grounded out weakly to end the inning with no score.

The game remained locked at nil all until the bottom of the eighth. The first two hitters were retired, before Tim Auty stepped up for his second hit of the night - a single to left. He then picked up a stolen base on a 3-1 pitch to Mitch Dening. This left Dening staring down a 3-2 count, and he handled the situation well - driving the ball to centerfield and bringing in Auty from second.

The Blue Sox then went to their closing staff, with Matt Williams and Dae-Sung Koo coming in to shut down the Cavalry in the 9th and end the game 1-0.

While the starting pitching from Oxspring laid the foundation for the Blue Sox, Tim Auty was the obvious selection for most valuable player. He picked up the first hit of the new league, and went 2-for-3 on the night, also picking up a perfectly executed sac bunt. In the field he took a very nice catch and looked generally solid. Other stars for the Sox included Michael Lysaught, who was silky smooth at short stop; Mitch Dening
who clutched up big time to drive in the run; David Kandilas who took two nice catches and picked up a nice outfield assist for shooting down Moon. Boss Moanaroa was also quite solid- he made some nice defensive plays and had some good at bats.

For the Cavalry, pitching was a strength, and all the Korean imports impressed. Great defensive efforts from Moon and Kimpton punctuated a solid all round display.

The game ended with a decent fireworks display and with the Blue Sox taking time to say hello to fans and sign autographs. After ten long years, professional baseball is back in Australia, and the fans loved every minute of it.

Nov 4, 2010

ABL players in the news

There are a few player features going around today, featuring a few players from ABL squads. The Newcastle Herald has a story on the Moanaroa brothers from the Blue Sox. Boss and Moko have returned from a season for the Red Sox in the Rookie League to play side by side for the Blue Sox.

There's also an interesting article in the Adelaide media about Todd Gossage - son of hall of famer Goose - who is in Adelaide apparently seeking a spot on the Bite roster.

The Canberra Times notes that Steve Kent has been selected to throw out the first pitch for the Cavalry, and also mentions the ABL has appointed a contractor to oversee the development of four of the six fields in the league.

And I was happy to read that Justin Huber is still keen on cracking MLB. He told the Knox Weekly that he believes he can still add value at the big league level.

All good stuff, and great to see a lot of coverage. Looks like the ABL media departments are working effectively!

The Arrival

I was a pleasantly surprised to arrive home tonight and find (somewhat unceremoniously stuffed into the mailbox) my Blue Sox cap and a few added extras.

Included with the hat was a white Blue Sox sticker, a bumper sticker with the slogan 'HONK IF YOU THINK I'M SOXY' and a business card (reverse side shown in the photo) for the Blue Sox Assistant GM.

The hat is, as you would expect from New Era, very good quality and the embroidered Blue Sox logo really jumps off the hat. They really should give that little guy a name if they haven't done so already - Billy? Bobby? Syd?

I'm also impressed with the freebies, although I'm not a huge fan of the bumper sticker, but its a bit of fun I suppose.

The package also had a note that other products are not yet available (altough I didn't order any, I guess they are just shoving them in with every order), and will be shipped as soon as possible,

Things are getting exciting! Only 2 days til the season launch, and the game is sold out! Bring it on.

Nov 1, 2010

ABL secures TV coverage on One HD and Foxtel?

There has been a little bit of talk on the ABL Fan Forums and Facebook page about the possibility of the ABL being covered on TV. There has been nothing formally announced at this point, and I for one have not heard anything being advertised.

However, a tidy little article over at Marketing Magazine says that:

The league has had some good early signs, with television coverage locked in with One HD and Fox Sports, and likely showings on the MLB network in the US. The five teams [Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth and Sydney] will play out a forty game season over summer and some of the teams have got an excellent response.
That seems pretty decisive to me, and would be quite a good pickup for the ABL - assuming of course that James Packer doesn't decide to dump it from One HD.

Also at Marketing Mag blog, Max Wakefield, Marketing Co-Ordinator at the Melbourne Aces hints that the League hopes to get to a point where each team expands beyond playing 4 games a week, to the typical US model of playing 'nearly every day'. It's early days yet and while things will surely do reasonably well in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, there are plenty of obstacles to overcome before the League can become an everyday proposition I reckon. Here's hoping though!

So, we are well into the season now, and it seems that there is not going to be any TV coverage.

That said, a number of teams have been organising live broadcasts over the internet - both audio and video. Follow @ozmlbplayers on twitter for all the details as they come to hand.