Regional franchise for Newcastle being "entertained" in expanded Australian Baseball League next season

BATTER UP: Toronto's Boss Moanaroa will play ABL with Canberra this season. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
BATTER UP: Toronto's Boss Moanaroa will play ABL with Canberra this season. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Newcastle Baseball Association president Brian Sullivan says the return of a Hunter team to an expanded national competition next season “wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility”.

Sullivan said the idea was being “entertained” and was spoken about at this week’s annual general meeting after the Australian Baseball League (ABL) announced it would grow from six to eight teams in 2018-2019.

The proposed move by Baseball Australia chief executive officer Cam Vale included regional areas and follows the sport being re-introduced to the Olympic program for Tokyo 2020. 

It means former franchise the Hunter Eagles, who played from 1994 to 1998, could be back on the diamond or a new outfit even formed to represent the area.        

“It is being entertained, most definitely,” Sullivan said. 

“We were the last provincial or regional side in the national competition.

“At this stage it’s still a long way off, because the ABL haven’t worked out how it will be structured ... but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.”

Sullivan said a couple of people behind the now defunct Eagles, who used McDonald Jones Stadium and Maitland Sportsground as venues, were “looking at the possibility of having something here in Newcastle”.  

Baseball Australia also touted Asia and New Zealand as places of interest but Vale said regional centres were being encouraged to put up their hand and apply.

“Regional centres are often overlooked by major sporting codes," Vale said.

“The ABL’s low-cost license model encourages regional cities and communities to state their case for inclusion as one of the highly valued opportunities for expansion by offering a significant return on investment through high-exposure both nationally and internationally.

“Australian national teams thrive on having talent drawn from as many areas around the country as possible, and we are keen to ensure that regional Australia has a major presence in the ABL.”

A decision about the two new teams has been scheduled for April.

The current ABL clubs, who start the 2017-2018 season this weekend, are: Adelaide Bite, two-time defending champions Brisbane Bandits, Canberra Cavalry, Melbourne Aces, Perth Heat and Sydney Blue Sox.

Newcastle baseballer Boss Moanaroa, who helped Toronto break a 69-year premiership drought by defeating nine-time title holders Belmont in September’s decider, will again line-up with Canberra.

Moanaroa’s teammate Michael Campbell (Toronto) rejoins Sydney. Australian under-18 representatives Rixon Wingrove (Phoenix) and Nick Anderson-Vine (Toronto) have been called-up by the Blue Sox as development players along with James Boeree (Belmont). 

Meanwhile, all first grade clubs are now represented on the Newcastle Baseball Association board following Monday night’s AGM.