Team Australia's World Baseball Classic squad will have a distinct Western Australian flavor with seven Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat players announced in the 28 man provisional roster heading to Taiwan in March.
Luke Hughes and Brendan Wise will appear in their second World Baseball Classic while fellow Heat teammates Tim Kennelly, Matt Kennelly, Warwick Saupold, Corey Adamson and Allan de San Miguel will make their debut appearances in the world's biggest international baseball tournament.
Starting on the 2nd of March, Team Australia faces an onerous task in Pool B against three strong baseball nations of Taiwan, Korea and the Netherlands. The Heat contingent's recent experiences at the Asia Series will come in handy, having played Taiwan at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in 2011 as well as taking on the Korean style of play in the 2012 series.
Some outstanding performances from Heat youngsters Corey Adamson and Warwick Saupold over the past year was enough to ensure them their inclusion in this year's event. Adamson is currently leading the ABL in batting average while Saupold is coming off an amazing season that included winning the ABL Pitcher of the Year and pitching Lakeland, Detroit's A+ affiliate, to a championship with seven shutout innings in the deciding fifth game.
With the active Heat players on the plane to Brisbane when the Team Australia roster was announced, Matt Kennelly was available to comment on his own inclusion and what it meant to be able to represent Australia alongside his Heat teammates.
"It feels great. It's going to be a honour to put on the Green and Gold for such a big tournament, especially with all of the Heat guys there. It's a great opportunity for guys like Warwick and Adamson, I think it will be their first time in the national colours. There's a great representation from the Heat squad and it's a bit of a pat on the back for all the work that's been done over here in recent years.
Corey Adamson and Matt Kennelly celebrate during their time at the Heat (SMP Images)
Hughes and Wise will add some key experience to a young roster as Australia looks to go a step further in the tournament after falling in the initial stages in 2009. A top two finish in Pool B will see the team off to Tokyo where they could potentially face back-to-back WBC champions Japan or Cuba. The top two nations from the Tokyo pool will head to AT&T Park in San Francisco to compete in the Semi-Finals and the WBC Final.
The World Baseball Classic is comparatively stronger than the Baseball World Cup as it is endorsed by MLB clubs. 48 players from Major League rosters have been announced in the tournament with five MVP and three Cy Young award winners, including current AL MVP Miguel Cabrera playing for Venezuela and NL Cy Young R.A. Dickey suiting up for Team USA.
The Heat's own "MVP" Tim Kennelly is listed as a Right Hand Pitcher on the Australian roster, opening up the possibility of an all-Kennelly battery with his brother Matt Kennelly listed as a catcher. Outside of backyard baseball meetings, Matt Kennelly has never had the chance to catch for his brother and would relish the opportunity on the world stage.
"I've only got to see him pitch once and it will be good to get behind the dish with him on the mound. He's excited as well and we're both in preparations for the tournament now. We're really looking forward to it."
Tim Kennelly Pitching for Team Australia in Sydney late last year (SMP Images)
Both of Team Australia's catchers hail from Perth with Allan de San Miguel's almost automatic selection coming after another strong season in Australia, dominating the hitting while earning praise from the Heat's pitching staff for his work behind the plate.
Joining the seven Heat players in Taiwan will be two members of the Heat's coaching staff. Pitching Coach Graeme Lloyd and Hitting Coach Greg Jelks have both represented Team Australia at the highest level during their careers.