I’ve always loved Australia and it didn’t take long after I had joined the baseball community to discover the wonderful world of the Australian Baseball League. For the past three or four years, I’ve tried to follow the league. You can imagine my excitement when I was tossing and turning unable to sleep when I realized it was the league’s opening night. I immediately opened my laptop and streamed every game that was on and here are some thoughts.
Brisbane Bandits @ Canberra Cavalry
It’s not everyday that you hear broadcasters with accents do baseball commentary but I must say the Canberra guys did an excellent job and I enjoyed listening to them. One of the reasons I liked listening to them so much is because they are more relaxed with their commentary. My highlight of the night was hearing “he has a whippy swing” although hearing players heights and weights being described in meters and kilos was fun too. They are very interactive too. The game’s live stream was on YouTube and they were talking to fans from the comments there and their Twitter stream. Thanks for the shout-out guys! (They even said my name right so extra props to them.)
As far as the crowd goes, they were just as fun to listen to and watch. And yes, their in-game entertainment is just as silly and outrageous as minor league baseball. There was a man in a hot dog suit throwing baseballs into the crowd. Between another inning was the second annual maple syrup eating contest which one of the contestants looked extremely nervous about. Perhaps the best one was a kid dressed in an oversized pair of sweatpants and his dad’s job was to throw small, stuffed animals into the pants. They set a new record of six stuffed animals but the broadcasters said it’s the first time they’ve done that game so of course it’s a record.
On a chilly Friday night, according to the broadcasters, the Brisbane Bandits took on the Canberra Cavalry at “The Fort” aka Narrabundah Ballpark. Padres’ farmhand Ryan Miller got things started for Canberra with a solo homer to left in the bottom of the first to put the home team on top. Strong pitching and defense kept the score there until the fourth. Twins’ prospect and Brisbane native Logan Wade looked to tie the score. Wade hopped aboard with a single up the middle before moving to second on a ground ball before exchanging places with fellow countryman and Indians’ prospect Mitch Nilsson who doubled to tie the game at one. However, a grounder and a line out ended the Bandits’ threat as that would be its only run of the night. Former MiLBer Jeremy Barnes ended up leading the charge in the home half as he hit a towering long ball to left field. That would be the last run to cross the plate as both team’s defenses held strong for the remainder of the game as Canberra claimed a 2-1 victory over Brisbane.
Former Rays’ farmhand Rick Teasley was tagged with the loss tossing five innings allowing six hits and two runs while striking out five. Brian Grening, formerly with the Indians organization, picked up his first win of the season throwing 6.1 innings allowing seven hits and one earned run while walking one and striking out six. Teammate Michael Click earned his first save striking out one in a hitless frame.
Sydney Blue Sox @ Melbourne Aces
While in the same league as Brisbane and Canberra, this game felt a bit different. To start things off, the broadcasters were both American and the broadcast sounded a lot like games over here. While The Fort seemed to be more of a traditional baseball atmosphere, Melbourne’s ballpark looked more modern. They had suites directly behind home plate which looked great except the TVs that were on. One can only imagine that could get distracting for the players at times. But the dugouts had stadium seats in them for the players which was definitely a first. I’d never seen anything like that at a pro field.
About seven hours south of Canberra, the Sydney Blue Sox took on the Melbourne Aces at Melbourne Ballpark. It was a pretty fast-paced game as both team’s defenses got quite the workout in trying not to allow any runs. It wasn’t until the fourth inning until the runs started rolling in. Royals’ prospect Mike Hill led off for the Aces doubling to left field. Melbourne native Brad Harman then ran out a bunt to put runners on the corners. A ground ball to the pitcher kept Hill at third and moved Harman to second. With one out, former Rays’ prospect Darryl George hit a ball up the middle that cleared the bases. However, he was thrown out trying to leg out a double followed by a Ryan Dale ground out to end the inning with the Aces up 2-0.
Melbourne added another run in the eighth. With two outs, Harman drew a walk before stealing second. Josh Davies then reached due to a fielding error to put runners on the corners. The Aces then pulled off a double steal with Harman scoring the third run of the game for Melbourne and Davies moving to second. But a strikeout ended the scoring for the rest of the game as Melbourne shut out Sydney 3-0.
Wayne Lundgren was tagged with his first loss of the season pitching six innings allowing seven hits and two runs with one walk while striking out six. Aces starter Matthew Larkins got the win throwing eight innings allowing four hits while allowing three walks and striking out two. Teammate William Wu picked up the save walking one and striking out one in one scoreless inning.
Adelaide Bite @ Perth Heat
Perth seemed to be a mix of the first two games I watched. The stadium was more traditional but it had some modern features like group areas down the line on either side full of kids waiting to grab a foul ball. According to the broadcast team of one American and one Aussie, all of the bleachers down the right field line were new improvements for the 2015 ABL season. There was also one very excited fan with a horn that sounded like a vuvuzela and it was going off all game long.
In the third and final game of Opening Day, the Adelaide Bite traveled to Perth to take on the Heat as the teams met at Barbagallo Ballpark. Like the previous games, it was the home team who jumped ahead early in the game. With one out in the third Matt Dixon drew a walk. Teammate and Orioles’ farmhand Anthony Caronia then doubled to right field to put two runners in scoring position. A sac fly from Rockies’ prospect Michael Benjamin brought in Dixon before a strikeout ended the inning with Perth leading 1-0.
Adelaide mounted a comeback in the sixth with Mariners’ prospect Jordan Cowan singling to right field before stealing two consecutive bases. Rangers’ farmhand Travis Demeritte doubling to left scoring Cowan to tie the game at one run apiece. Demeritte stole third and came home on a sac fly from Kyle Petty to put the Bite up 2-1 going into the home half. However, the Aces tied the game yet again. Braves’ prospect Matt Kennelly doubled and moved to third on a bunt. He would be brought in on an RBI single from Orioles’ farmhand Derek Peterson.
The Bite brought in another two runs in the top of the eighth inning to go ahead 4-2 with three hits including a Stefan Welch double, a Kyle Petty single, and a Ben Lodge single. But the score would continue to see-saw back and forth with a dramatic finish to the game. With one out, Correlle Prime singled followed by back-to-back walks to load the bases. Peterson then stepped into the box and belted a triple deep to center field to clear the bases and secure a Perth win by a score of 5-4.
Astros prospect Kevin Comer is tagged with the loss. He has a blown save pitching 0.2 innings allowing two hits and three earned runs while walking two and striking out one. Christian Garcia picks up the win tossing 1.1 innings allowing one hit and striking out two.