Some of the world’s best professional baseball players will showcase their skills on Australian soil this summer when the Major League Baseball backed Australian Baseball League (ABL) returns for its third season on 1st November.
The ABL’s six clubs - the Sydney Blue Sox, Melbourne Aces, Brisbane Bandits, Perth Heat, Adelaide Bite, and Canberra Cavalry will compete in a 46 game, 14 week regular season, with a designated ‘game of the week’ to be televised nationally for the first time.
The ABL will once again feature our nation’s best home-grown baseball talent, including members of the Australian National Baseball Team, competing alongside highly-touted international prospects sent to play in the ABL by teams from Major League Baseball, Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korean Baseball Organisation. 40% of players in the ABL are affiliated with these organisations.
The Australian Baseball League is owned and supported by Major League Baseball, the world’s largest pro sports league, and MLB will maintain an active presence in Australia this ABL season.
26 out of 30 MLB organisations are sending prospects to the ABL this season, including world famous teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, and it is expected that as many as 11 current and former ‘Major Leaguers’ will take the field for an ABL club this year.
*All game start times displayed in team’s local time
ABL TEAM PREVIEWS:
Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat
Stadium: Barbagallo Ballpark
Home Opener: Friday, 16 Nov vs. Melbourne Aces at 7:20 pm
The defending ABL Champion Perth Heat opened up their 2011 season with 11 consecutive wins, an ABL first, and cruised into the post-season with the league’s best record. The Heat were taken all the way to the 13th inning of the deciding game of the ABL Championship Series by the Aces, but were able to claim their second consecutive ABL title.
Perth is arguably the league’s most balanced club, leading the ABL last season in nearly every major statistical category in both batting and pitching as a team. They’ve been dominant in the league’s first two seasons and if the club can manage to ‘three-peat’ as ABL Champion they would have to be considered the league’s first dynasty.
Players To Watch:
Luke Hughes (IF) - Perth’s most high profile player signed with the Toronto Blue Jays organisation after spending the early part of the 2012 MLB season with the Oakland A’s and 2011 with the Minnesota Twins.
Alan De San Miguel (C) - Signed with the Baltimore Orioles during an outstanding 2011 ABL season that earned him the Golden Glove Award as the league’s best defensive player.
Tim Kennelly (P/OF) - Winner of last season’s Helms Award for the league’s most valuable player. Joined by his three younger brothers on the Heat roster.
Warwick Saupold (RHP) - ABL’s Pitcher of the Year last season after posting a league record low 1.41 ERA while also leading the league in innings pitched.
Jet Couriers Melbourne Aces
Stadium: Melbourne Ballpark
Home Opener: Friday, 9 Nov vs. Adelaide Bite at 7:35pm
2012 has already been a huge year for the Aces. They came within a play of winning their first ABL title, they’ve moved to a newly renovated stadium and their star pitcher Travis Blackley made headlines around the US with an outstanding season with the Oakland A’s.
On paper, the Aces roster looks to be the ABL’s strongest with Melbourne boasting a veteran group that includes five former major leaguers and a whopping 22 players affiliated with MLB & Nippon, both are the most in the league.
Players To Watch:
Travis Blackley (LHP) - The Oakland A’s pitcher played a pivotal role in their miracle run to the MLB playoffs this past season and the Aces are hoping Blackley will see action at some point in the season.
Andrew Russell (RHP) - After winning the ABL’s batting title in the league’s first season, Russell has converted to a pitcher and is now expected by many to be the next Aussie to make their debut in MLB.
Brad Harman (IF) - Former big league slugger set a new ABL record for most home runs in a season (15) last year.
Zack Arenson (RHP) - New York Yankee prospect is said to have a 160 kph fastball and one of the most unique deliveries in the league.
Sydney Blue Sox
Stadium: Blacktown International Sportspark, Rooty Hill
Home Opener: Friday, 9 Nov vs. Brisbane Bandits at 7:30pm
The Sydney Blue Sox have reached the playoffs in both of their seasons but have yet to advance to an ABL Championship Series. The club is hoping to take the next step in 2012/13 with what many consider to be the deepest and most talented pitching roster in the league, three of whom have MLB experience.
Sydney will miss the offensive production of Brandon Barnes, who earlier in the year became the first international ABL player to make his MLB debut, but new imports will be arriving throughout the season which should provide offensive reinforcement. If Sydney can find a way to bat as well as they’re expected to pitch, they could be dangerous this season.
Players To Watch:
Dae-Sung Koo (LHP) - The Korean pitching legend has led the ABL in saves in the last two seasons and is considered the league’s most reliable closer.
Chris Oxspring (RHP) - Former Detroit Tiger and San Diego Padre is one of Team Australia’s star hurlers and is currently the only player/coach in the ABL.
David Kandilas (OF) - First ABL player to ever hit for the cycle.
Trent Oeltjen (OF) - Former Arizona Diamondback and LA Dodger outfielder is hoping to join Sydney sometime this season in preparation for MLB free agency.
Stadium: RNA Showground, Fortitude Valley
Home Opener: Friday, 16 Nov vs. Canberra Cavalry at 7:00pm (played at Redland Rays Club)
The Brisbane Bandits missed last year’s post-season by only one game, but with a talented core of young Australian players that now have a another season under their belt, the club is optimistic about securing its first post-season berth in 2012/13.
Brisbane is the league’s youngest team and loaded with potential at both the mound and the plate. They could be the ABL’s dark horse contender come February.
Players To Watch:
Josh Roberts (OF) - Triple Crown candidate and talented Queensland rugby league player.
Mitch Nilsson (C) - Nephew of the most successful Australian major leaguer of all time, David Nilsson, the only Aussie to play in an MLB All-Star Game.
Rory Rhodes (IF) - Member of Team Australia who signed with the Minnesota Twins organisation as a 17 year old.
Hirotoshi Onaka (OF) - Japanese import player from the Texas Rangers will be a massive addition to the Bandits line-up.
Adelaide Bite presented by SA Power Networks
Stadium: Norwood Oval, Norwood
Home Opener: Thursday, 1 Nov vs. Perth Heat at 4:30pm
After reaching the ABL Championship Series in the league’s inaugural season, the Adelaide Bite had high hopes for the 2011 season and made the playoffs but couldn’t get past the first round. Adelaide has the longest title drought of any club and they’re hungry for another shot at the Championship this season.
The Bite will feature a core group of veteran Australian players who’ll be joined by a dozen international import prospects from the Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates organisations. If the team can gel quickly their potent offense will make them a threatening force this season.
Players To Watch:
Stefan Welch (IF) - Long-time member of Team Australia plays for the Pittsburgh Pirates organisation.
Rinku Singh (RHP) - First Indian to sign an MLB contract. Discovered on a reality TV show searching for international baseball talent. His story is currently being made into a film by Disney.
Adam Crabb (RHP) - Pitched in the Israel Baseball League in its only season of play in 2007.
Darren Fidge (OF) - 37-year-old veteran has played more ABL games (including the former ABL) than anyone in the league.
Canberra Cavalry driven by Rolfe Renault
Stadium: Narrabundah Ballpark, Narrabundah
Home Opener: Friday, 2 Nov vs. Sydney Blue Sox at 7:00pm
The Canberra Cavalry made a valiant charge at their first ABL playoff appearance last season, but narrowly missed the post-season by a single game. They’ve reloaded for another run at the title and boast more international baseball talent than any team in the ABL.
The Cavalry’s underrated pitching roster has been bolstered with talent from the Hanshin Tigers of Nippon Professional Baseball and their leading offensive players from last season will be back on deck. Canberra has the talent, but the players will need to come together swiftly as a team to ensure a fast start to the season.
Players to Watch:
Brian Burgamy (IF) - Named the ABL’s Best Offensive Player last season with a record-setting .409 batting average and the most hits in the league (67).
Kyle Perkins (RHP) - Played for the New York Yankees organisation as a catcher and converted to a relief pitcher midway through last year’s ABL season where he found success on the mound.
Robbie Perkins (C) - Catcher will make his professional baseball debut as a teenager with the Cavalry and will report to the Colorado Rockies organisation when ABL play concludes.
Hayden Beard (RHP) - Pitched with both the New York Mets and San Diego Padres organisations and emerged as a starter last season in the ABL.