Over the summer, the Canberra Cavalry of the Australian Baseball League (ABL) travelled to Taiwan for the Asia Baseball Series Championships as representatives of the Australian league. Nobody gave them a chance, especially with all the top Asian teams from Japan, Korea and Taiwan also participating. They weren’t supposed to win a single game, however they went on to emphatically win the whole tournament. Could this be the spark that leads to baseball growing in the land down under?
The Canberra Cavalry really did surprise the fans in Asia and Australia with their dominant display of the sport in the tournament. The payroll of their entire squad added up to a mere $47,000 whilst there were teams in the tournament like Japanese giants, Tohoku Golden Eagles that had a payroll equaling $23.5 million. Perhaps it was this underdog status that propelled them to the top as there was no pressure on the team whatsoever.
They became the first Australian team to win a game in the Asia Baseball Series by defeating Taiwan’s EDA Rhinos, which launched their confidence to garner a series of good results and they soon found themselves in the semi-finals. In a major upset, they defeated the defending Asia Series champion, the Samsung Lions from Korea. This run of form continued into the championship game where they absolutely demolished Taiwanese squad, Uni-President Lions, 14-4 to cap off a spectacular tournament by the Aussies.
Being a baseball player myself, I would love to see the baseball grow in such a sports-mad country such as Australia. Baseball has historically found it tough to break in here due to the strong cricket culture, but I truly believe the two can coexist.
Australia is slowly, but surely making a name for themselves in the sport on an international scale. They have participated in all three of the World Baseball Classic tournaments to date (2006, 2009 and 2013). They also finished fifth in the IBAF Baseball World Cup and most recently, the Canberra Cavalry became the first Australian team to not only win a game in the Asia Series, but also win the whole tournament. In fact, Australia currently has 60 players under professional contracts with various Major League Baseball (MLB) organizations.
Perhaps the MLB has also seen this increase in popularity which is why two baseball powerhouses, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers are coming down under to play their opening series in Sydney this year. This will mark the first time the MLB has staged regular season games on Australian soil.
The keys for the sport of baseball to blossom is to get the youth to watch, get interested and participate in the game. If this can happen, then I do not doubt that baseball will slowly climb up the ranks in popularity amongst Aussies. Who knows, maybe “America’s past-time” can become “Australia’s future.”
The MLB Opening Series between the LA Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks will be played in Sydney on March 22nd and 24th of this year.