The countdown is ON! Only 3 days to go!

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That’s right, in just three short days the Australian Baseball League will rise again. Eleven years ago it was the Gold Coast Cougars who took home the final ABL title after a 2-0 series sweep over the Sydney Storm. One of the gun pitchers of that victorious Gold Coast squad was a fellow who racked up a very nice season going 5-3 with a 3.68 ERA. His name – Phil Brassington, and a short eleven years down the track “young” Phil is back, his fastball replaced by the frustratingly beautiful pitch known as the knuckleball.

Brassington will be plying his trade for the fledgling Canberra Cavalry, one of six teams vying for title in 2010. Trying to stop them will be the Adelaide Bite, Brisbane Bandits, Melbourne Aces, Perth Heat, and the Sydney Blue Sox.
With the best local talent plus imports from as far as North America, Korea, Japan and even India, the competition promises to be one of the best ever staged downunder.

According to the official ABL website, of the 210 players listed on the 35-man rosters, the ABL will feature:

  • 10 Major League Players
    Chris Oxspring, Dae-Sung Koo, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Brad Thomas, Rich Thompson, Trent Oeltjen, Luke Hughes, Phil Stockman, Justin Huber, Travis Blackley
  • 115 players currently or formerly contracted with Major League clubs
  • 10 Australian Olympic Silver medalists
  • 12 USA Imports
    (From Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, and Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • 6 Korean Korea Professional Baseball imports from the Lotte Giants
  • 8 Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball imports (from the Fukuoka Softbank hawks and Tokyo Giants)

What the website doesn’t mention is that the Canberra Cavalry also have a pitcher who not only was born in Lucknow India, but found his way to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization by way of winning a competition – The Million Dollar Arm – back in his native country. Rinku Singh is quite a story. For more on Rinku, keep an eye on our regular feature Meet Your Imports, as we help you become more familiar with some of the offshore talent on display at a ballpark near you in 2010/11.

Let’s run the slide rule over each team and see what makes them tick….

Adelaide Bite:

Also known as the Adelaide ETSA Bite (here at ABL Buzz we like to keep it simple so we will try and avoid corporate naming where possible – when we get to the Perth team you will understand why), the ABL explains that the name “pays homage to the menacing Great White shark that patrols South Australia’s coastal waters as well as the state’s geographic location along the iconic Great Australian Bight”. So, to recap – it’s like a shark “bite” from the Great White found in the “Bight”. Complicated, but I do like the shark logo, and if it’s good enough for the Captain, it’s good enough for me.

Now THAT's better than those girly pinstripes!

Adelaide will play their home games out of Norwood Oval, meaning that the uber tasty Coopers products will be flowing freely at game time. That alone would make Norwood Oval the place to be on a hot summer’s night.

So the venue is sweet, but what about the team? The Bite will be managed by SA baseball legend Tony Harris, a great coup for the players and fans alike. Whilst they don’t have any current major leaguers on their roster, they do boast four Olympic silver medallists (Paul Mildren, Wayne Ough, Tom Brice, and Ben Wigmore), some fine local talent and four players from the US minor leagues.

To top it off, the Adelaide Bite has two of the sweetest sounding names in baseball – local West Torrens boy Jesse Duval will be joined by US import Quincy Latimore.

Anyone who saw last years Claxton Shield playoffs would remember a stellar catch from gun outfielder and Capps Medallist Dan Wilson – the doctor will back dishing out much the same this season, worth the price of admission alone.

All in all the Adelaide team is relying more on local flavour than imported goods, making this a true Adelaide team in the sense of the word. Only time will tell if the home grown squad can put the Bite on the opposition.

Brisbane Bandits:

Managed by arguably Australia’s most famous baseball export David Nilsson, the Bandits are going all-out to refresh a brand that has been around since 1989. Nilsson, once an MLB All-Star, has cast the net far and wide to ensure the northerners assemble a team capable of taking the inaugural title down. Phil Stockman, with the Atlanta Braves from 2006-9 makes his way onto the roster, as do four high profile Japanese players from the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.

With no less than 15 players currently associated with major league franchises in the US, the Brisbane team will have a lot more than just the prettiest roster page in the league (if you don’t believe me, click below – though I must warn you that you may feel like a dozen smoked spare ribs and two shots of whiskey after viewing…………)

http://brisbanebandits.com.au/site/abl/brisbanebandits/downloads/Bandits%20Playing%20Roster%20Posters%20v3.pdf?bcsi_scan_A4C9E8056B19D97F=0&bcsi_scan_filename=Bandits%20Playing%20Roster%20Posters%20v3.pdf

Justin Erasmus from South Africa – a member of the South African team in the World Baseball classic – was born in Johannesburg but grew up in Brisbane. He joins his Aussie and Japanese team mates for a crack at the title.

The Bandits press release stated “The Bandits name reflects one of the country’s most recognised baseball brands dating back to 1989, and embodies the club’s electrifying style of play on the field.”

We can only assume that means the Bandits will be doing a lot of stealing, so catchers – don’t say that you weren’t warned by the boys from ABL Buzz!

Canberra Cavalry

A rabid local campaign brought the ABL to Canberra so the players will be looking to repay some of that faith by having a red-hot go in the nation’s capital. The Cavalry lost the battle to be named the “Canberra Colts”, as rugby union super-power the ACT Brumbies intervened. The Colts were shelved and the Cavalry rode into town.

Narrabundah Ball Park will be home to the Cavalry, to be managed by ex- MLB pitcher Steve Schrenk. Steve played for the Phillies in ’99-’00, and currently acts as the pitching coach for the Phil’s Single-A affiliate.

The Cavalry is an absolute melting pot of baseball talent. Joining Australian baseball stalwart Phil Brassington on the roster are five Korean Major league imports from the Lotte Giants, three US professionals – including ex-Adelaide Claxton shield player David Washington (that’s D-wash to you and me), a short stop from the Netherlands, an Italian pitcher via the Chicago Cubs, and of course the previously mentioned Rinku Singh from India!

I have no idea how they will go on the field, but you can guarantee the post-game spread will be a flavour sensation! The Cavalry should be one of the great public interest stories this season, so keep an eye on how coach Schrenk moulds this eclectic bunch of united-nations into a unified team playing for the big prize.

Melbourne Aces

Twenty two championships gives the Melbourne the boys the right to continue with the moniker of “Aces”, even if the uniform tops do invoke images of a Roger Ramjet family reunion.

Roger Ramjet he's our friend, hero of our na-tion..

A new home at the Melbourne showgrounds should prove a boon for crowd numbers, as if the drawcard of major league calibre players Justin Huber, Travis Blackley and the probability of a late season arrival from Atlanta pitcher Peter Moylan aren’t enough.

Australian baseball legend Phil Dale takes the reigns of what should be a very strong ball club. Blackley and Donovan Hendricks lead a very solid pitching staff for the team containing the nucleus of the reigning Claxton Shield premiers.

The Aces recently had a meet and greet session in the city, rolling out the red carpet for Melbourne Demons AFL young gun Tom Scully and high profile Australian swimming icon Nicole Livingstone. You can be guaranteed that this franchise won’t be doing anything by halves in 2010/11.

Perth Heat:

To be known in Western Australia as the Alcohol Think Again Perth Heat (see what I mean about the naming rights – let’s just stick with the Heat shall we?), this team has been a regular powerhouse in Australian baseball for many years.

Playing their home games at Perth’s Barbagallo Ballpark, these fellas should be the hottest ticket in town. Star player Luke Hughes will displaying the skills that helped him to make his major league debut in 2010 for the Minnesota Twins – hopefully showing the form of his major league debut where he smashed a home run. Also in the Twins system is Liam Hendriks, another Perth star who made the roster for the MLB Futures Game in 2010. Unfortunately a bout of appendicitis kept Liam from joining his team mates in the showcase of the world’s best young talent, now Australia will once again be able to witness his pitching talent in the ABL.

The Heat will be managed by Brooke Knight, returning from the US where he manages the West Coast League Corvallis Knights – giving him the unusual distinction of being able to wear his name on the FRONT of his uniform.

Hey looky Ma, my name is on the FRONT!

Knight has already declared that his team is looking the goods for the impending ABL season, and with a solid blend of youth and experience, it would be hard to argue with him. Look for Perth to put the Heat on the competition when the first pitch is thrown.

Sydney Blue Sox

The Blue Sox will play their home games at Blacktown Olympic Park, scene of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. The BOP is an absolutely magnificent place to both play and watch our beautiful game, so it’s no wonder tickets are hotter than Jennifer Hawkins in a string bikini.

Sydney boasts a pitching line-up chock full of talent, with the Seattle Mariners Ryan Rowland-Smith and Korean stalwart Dae-Sung Koo (he once got a hit of Randy Johnson in the bigs) leading the way.

The team will be managed by one-time golden Aussie prospect Glen Williams, who way back in 1993, as a 16 year-old, signed a lucrative deal with the Atlanta Braves believed to be worth over US$1 million. Williams’ extensive experience in the Atlanta, Toronto and Minnesota systems should stand him in good stead managing the New South Wales team.

If the team fires up half as much as their angry sock-guy mascot, the Blue Sox should be able to take it right up to the rest of the league.

Come 'ere! I'm gonna smash your face in!

Well, that’s it for our first look at the combatants vying for the ABL title in season 2010/11. Keep checking back over the coming days and weeks as ABL Buzz brings you news and views on all things ABL, including:

• Meet your imports
• Game Reports
• Who’s Hot & Who’s Not
• Insider news

…..and much, much more, all in an easily digestible format with an emphasis on having fun, because after all – that’s what baseball is all about.

Until then, keep the Buzz – Boris is OUT!

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