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Baseball ready to strike in Tasmania with plans for two teams in national competition

BRETT STUBBS, Sports Editor, Mercury
September 7, 2017 6:00pm
Subscriber only

WHILE the governing bodies of AFL, soccer and basketball dither on Tasmanian expansion, baseball is aiming to strike with national teams in Hobart and Launceston.

And as opposed to the other sports, it is not a case of Tasmania pushing its case, but the governing body, Baseball Australia, making the push.

The Mercury can reveal BA and the Australian Baseball League chief executive Cam Vale is aiming to meet the Tasmanian Government soon but he already has plans to build the sport from the ground up, possibly as soon as the 2018-19 season.

The 12-14 week season runs from November to February and would create exposure for the state in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, where baseball is the No.l sport.

It would also run at a fraction of the cost of other codes, with Mr Vale stating a club could successfully function on a $700,000 annual budget with crowds of 800-1000 for home games, with games played out of North Hobart Oval and UTas Stadium.

“The opportunity for Tasmania is we’ve got a great chance to take our product away from the major East Coast capital cities,” Mr Vale said.

Mr Vale said the success of sporting rivalries was behind the dual city expansion while baseball hoped to benefit by having first crack at first choice athletes.

The bold plan has the backing of Baseball Tasmania’s president David Searle.

“It is absolutely exciting, it is what I have been dreaming of,” Mr Searle said.

“It might take a bit of time to get there ... and a lot of things have to fall into place.”

The ABL has affiliations with Major League Baseball in the US and professional leagues in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Quality imports are loaned to ABL teams at little or no cost as it is during the northern hemisphere’s off season, significantly reducing expenses.

“What I really like is Tasmania is a strong sporting culture but we are almost like a new sport coming to town,” Mr Vale said.

“It is a greenfield approach on how we might build the game and building the game with the ABL is the right way to go.”

Mr Vale understands the sport has only a small following in the state, with only seven southern teams currently, but he has a strong affiliation with Tasmania having been North Melbourne’s chief operations officer when it started playing games in Hobart before going on to be Hockey Australia’s chief executive.

He said two ABL teams would not only be good for the elite level, it would also generate interest in beginner T-ball programs and Little League teams with an Australian Little League team getting direct entry to the US Little League finals, which are broadcast on ESPN.

“The ABL teams are an exciting lead point in,” he said.

“But the sustainability, the 10- to 20-year vision, is for a Tasmanian team to be competing in the Little League world series, the first Tasmanian to be signed for a MLB team — that’s where we really want to get into the heart of why we are doing it,” he said.

David (8/9/2017)