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Increased International Presence to Be Felt in 2011
Over 40 International Players Will Represent 11 Nations
11/03/2011 7:58 PM ET
 (SMP Images/ Geoff Jones)
There will be a largely increased talent pool for the dawning Australian Baseball League season and it will have a very worldly feel to it. Overall, the ABL is expecting over 40 international players to participate this season, representing 11 different nations. All of the world's most well-regarded professional leagues will be represented, as well, guaranteeing excellent competition over the next four months.

The international players range from perhaps the league's most experienced and accomplished professional, Sydney's Koo Dae-Sung of South Korea, to 20-year old German pitcher Markus Solbach of the Melbourne Aces. Koo, at 42 years of age, has accomplished everything he's set out to in his marvelous career. A left-handed relief pitcher, he owns 93 career wins, 236 saves, and over 1700 strikeouts. He earned a bronze medal in the 2000 Olympics and in 1996 was named both MVP and a Golden Glove winner in the Korean Baseball Organization, posting an outstanding statistical line of 18 wins, 24 saves, a 1.88 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 139 innings pitched. He was last year's ABL Reliever of the Year, with 12 saves and a 1.00 ERA.

Solbach, who was signed by the Minnesota Twins as an international free agent in February, just completed his rookie season. He made quite the first impression pitching for the Gulf Coast Twins, finishing with a 1.91 ERA in 15 games. The 195 cm right-hander appears to be the kind of talented young prospect to help the ABL in its quest to continue breeding MLB players.

Another great development for this season is the influx of players from the world's top baseball leagues. There will be over three times as many participants with Major League Baseball contracts as there were last season, a great follow-up to the 2011 MLB season, in which a record nine Australians played at the highest level in America. The Nippon Professional Baseball league of Japan, in particular, is sending a number of exciting young players, including five members of the Hanshin Tigers who will play for Canberra. One of the players to keep an eye on this year for the Cavalry will be right-handed pitcher Takumi Akiyama, whose 2010 NPB debut at age 19 saw him become an immediately effective member of the Hanshin rotation, posting a 3.35 ERA in seven starts. With the NPB's history of success, fans may very well see the next Hideo Nomo or Ichiro Suzuki playing in Canberra this season.

In addition to some of the exciting new players, plenty of great talent will be returning after contributing to the success of the ABL's inaugural season. Perhaps the most well-known of these players is Perth's outfielder and reigning Helms Award winner Jamie McOwen of the United States. Another great story to follow is pitcher Rinku Singh of India, a Pittsburgh Pirates minor leaguer. Singh will move from the Canberra Cavalry to the Adelaide Bite this season, looking to continue his run of success after posting a 2.45 ERA during the 2011 minor league season. His original introduction to the game of baseball came less than four years ago, when he was champion of the Indian reality television show, "Million Dollar Arm."

With these and many more exciting players from around the globe traveling "Down Under" this season to compete in the ABL's second go-around, things are bound to be intriguing. Europe, North America, and Asia will all be represented, to go along with Australia's finest, giving each player a unique chance to prove himself against competitors from every background imaginable. The 2011 season has finally arrived, and it will go off in grand style.

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.