TOKYO – With the omission of Olympic baseball in London 2012 and at the upcoming 2016 games in Rio it seems the tide has turned the past few months and we are closer than ever to see the game’s return at the Olympic level.
With the International Olympic Committee officially approving the addition of a sport, without requiring the seven-year rule, last December, it is promising that Tokyo may host the return of Olympic Baseball in 2020.
The Premier of NSW, Mike Baird, travelled to Tokyo on the weekend for trade talks but managed to sneak in a baseball game during his visit with assistance from Baseball NSW and Major League Baseball International. It just happened his trip coincided with a huge game between the famed Yomiuri Giants and the Yakult Swallows where he was treated to on field access and meeting the team head coach Tatsunori Hara.
As the Sydney Blue Sox number one ticket holder Premier Baird has been helpful in expressing his support for baseball’s return to the Olympics and met with officials from the Yomiuri Giants to further understand their stance on the issue.
With baseball being the number one sport in Japan, the country is eager to ensure the return to the summer games. Its popularity has put pressure on organisers to guarantee the push for its return with the famous Tokyo Dome being the centrepiece of the show and a potential $900M financial benefit to the country in sponsorship.
Accompanied by Sydney Blue Sox and Baseball NSW CEO Mark Marino, the Premier met with Giants staff and dignitaries to express his support for baseball’s return to the Olympics.
“It was certainly a great opportunity to see the Giants play in the Tokyo Dome. The Premier didn’t miss a play and definitely understands the subtleties of baseball,” said Marino.
“The goal is to have baseball return to the Olympics in 2020. It is Japan’s national sport so the chances are very good.
“The benefit for Australia is the chance to extend our international ties with some of Asia’s baseball playing nations who have visited our shores many times to play and train in the past and hopefully again in the future. This trip is a small step in nurturing those relationships.”
Japan’s best Olympic result was a silver medal in Atlanta in 1996, which compares to Australia who also won silver at the Athens games in 2004.
There is no doubt the Asian powerhouse will be pushing to go one better in a dream scenario in front of their home fans in 2020. Japan’s history with Australian Baseball is a mixed one given it was the Aussies that knocked them out of the Gold Medal game in 2004.
“The amount of interest is unbelievable and with the increase of talent coming from Japan it would be tremendous if baseball returned for the Tokyo games and Japan did well in that competition,” Marino states.
On these shores Baseball Australia and the Australian Baseball League are doing all they can to ensure the game’s re-entry. The support of the NSW government has definitely helped boost the profile of the game in the state which in turn helps the overall cause.
“It’s great to see that the Premier is behind our game, his support over the years has assisted in the consistent increase in popularity here in NSW,” insisted Marino.
With participation levels across grassroots going from strength to strength, it seems baseball is here to stay.
A successful re-entry to the Olympics will only add to that progress, let’s hope it happens.
After five seasons of baseball in the Australian Baseball League (ABL), Luke Wilkins is anything but a rookie to the sport. But according to Frontier League rules, that’s exactly where he finds himself.
Wilkins, who signed with the Washington Wild Things this past off season, is listed as a Rookie 1 (R1) by Frontier League standards.
“The Rookie 1 sub-classification will be for players who made their professional debut in the current season and therefore have no prior professional experience.”
…Or if you played in a league outside of the United States as in Wilkins’ case.
Even though Wilkins is making his first professional appearance in the USA this season, it is not his first time playing baseball in America. After a successful youth baseball career in Australia, he earned a scholarship to Clarendon College in Texas where he pitched in 2009 and 2010.
After two years of college ball, the Sydney, Australia native began his professional baseball career in 2010 at the age of 20 for the Canberra Calvary during their inaugural season in the ABL.
Next year, Wilkins joined the Sydney Blue Sox and has been a fixture there ever since. For three seasons (2011-2013), he pitched solely in relief, except for one spot start in 2011. During the 2012 ABL off season, Wilkins went to Europe to pitch for the Royal Greys in Belgium. The extra work helped immensely. His 2013 season was his best yet. He pitched in 21 games – striking out 27 and allowing only one earned run en route to an outstanding 0.28 ERA and pitcher of the year honors for the Blue Sox.
In 2014, Wilkins converted to a starter. He pitched in 11 games with a 5-3 record and had a 3.31 ERA while earning pitcher of the year honors for the second year in a row. He was also chosen to pitch for the Australian National Team, The Southern Thunder.
Wilkins is going to get a chance to help the Wild Things in two different roles this season. The team currently plans to use him out of the bullpen as long relief, and he will also be used in spot starts or at the back end of the rotation when necessary.
He wants to use this opportunity to show American scouts and fans what others in Australia have already known for years.
“In terms of what I want to get out of here… I’ve always been a more statistical guy. I’ve never been the guy with the size or the other attributes that would attract scouts. I think scouts respect putting up really good numbers in American leagues as opposed to international leagues. So now it’s about continuing to put up really good numbers and hopefully those will be taken more seriously here in America and give me a shot to move up in pro ball.”
His first appearance for the Wild Things was as a starter on May 21st. The weather (rainy and cold) was something he never experienced while pitching in Australia, but that wasn’t a problem. Wilkins went five innings allowing five hits, two walks and one earned run while striking out two. He was in line for the win until the Wild Things lost the lead in the top of the 9th.
Follow along all season to the “Aussie in America” series to find out how Wilkins is doing, what his thoughts are on baseball in America compared to Australia, and more!
The Bonn Capitals have announced on Wednesday that they have extended the contract with Wilson Lee through the 2016 season. The left-hander, who is currently dominating the German Baseball-Bundesliga on the mound and at the plate, arrived in Bonn this spring. During the winter of 2015/2016 he will spend in Australia playing baseball.
Lee is currently sporting an ERA of 0.27 in five starts, having struck out 57 batters in 33 innings, while walking nine. At the plate he is batting .559/.625/.971 with four home runs and 21 RBI in 10 games. His Capitals are currently in second place in the northern division with a 10-1 record.
The club already had signed Bradley Roper-Hubbert, Daniel Lamb-Hunt and Maurice Wilhelm through 2016.
Infielder playing under manager, fellow Sydneysider Graham
By Mitch Sanderson / Special to the ABL / TheABL.com.au
LAKELAND, Fla. – Sydneysider Zac Shepherd has flourished on the international stage and now he’s taking a shot at the big leagues.
The 19-year-old infielder signed as a free agent with the Detroit Tigers in July 2012 after playing in the Major League Baseball Australian Academy Program and being named the 2011 Australian Baseball Youth Player of the Year.
While the Tigers infield prospect has been one of the better players growing up in the land down under, he’s humbled by the opportunity to make it to the Majors and isn’t putting any pressure on himself to get there in a hurry.
“Obviously people see things in me that are good, but I try and make sure my entire game is as good as it can be,” said Shepherd, sitting at a picnic table at the Tigertown Complex in Florida during Spring Training. “I don’t really have a goal where to play, I just want to be somewhere where I’ll play every day because I’m still 19 and I’m just trying to get better every day.”
Shepherd finished his third season with the Sydney Blue Sox of the Australian Baseball League in January, hitting .227 with 16 RBI, six home runs and a .365 on-base percentage in 37 games. Last summer, he played 51 games for the rookie-class Gulf Coast League Tigers, hitting .301 (12th in the GCL), with 29 RBI, four home runs, 12 doubles, five triples, and a .373 OBP in his first season in the Minors.
This year, Shepherd has started strong for the Class A West Michigan Whitecaps of the Midwest League. There, under the tutelage of Whitecaps manager and former Blue Sox catcher and assistant coach Andrew Graham, Shepherd has batted .278/.320/.376 in 38 games, primarily at third base.
The Sydneysider burst onto the Aussie baseball scene at the 2011 World Under-16 Championships in Mexico where he won the tournament’s gold glove as the most outstanding defensive player and received all-star shortstop honours for his play with the national team.
“That was definitely the highlight of my career,” said Shepherd. “It’s always big playing for your country, especially in Australia because not many people get the opportunity, so I try and cherish it every moment.”
While only 31 Australian players have cracked MLB lineups — few of them infielders — Shepherd has looked up to former players Luke Hughes, Trent Oeltjen (now his agent), and Glenn Williams, a Tigers scout and his former coach.
“(Williams) has coached me since I was 13, so he’s really made me into the player I am today,” said Shepherd. “Oeltjen…he’s looking after me and been a mentor for me going forward in my career because he knows a lot about the game and he helps me out with things that I struggle with.”
The 6-foot-3 corner infielder is early in his pro career, but he’s ready to be a similar figure for kids back home in the Australian baseball community.
“A lot of kids come up to during the games and asked for signed balls and bats,” said Shepherd. “”When I was younger I looked up to people and I know what I expected from them so it’s easy for me to give back to them.”
Follow Mitch Sanderson on Twitter @Mitch_Sanderson.
The Texas Rangers signed another Australian this week when they inked in a contract with NSW pitcher Brad Simon.
Brad who had an outstanding tournament in the 2013 U16 National titles [he was 2nd to Lachlan Wells in Ks with 16] was also a member of the 2014 MLB Academy on the Gold Coast and represented NSW in this years’ U18 National Championships. His performances led to him gaining selection in the U18 Australian team that competed in the World Cup Oceania Qualifier in Auckland last January collecting a win against Guam.
Australia’s success in Auckland qualified them to compete in the 2015 WBSC U18 Baseball World Cup, which will be staged from 28 August – 06 September in Osaka, Japan.
Brad will join the Rangers in Spring Training once his visa is processed
Grant Balfour Hoping To Return To MLB
By Steve Kinsella/ sportstalkflorida.com
Grant Balfour continues to pitch well for the Durham Bulls. He may not resurface with the Rays but he could find his way back to a MLB roster soon.
The last time we saw Grant Balfour in the Rays clubhouse he had just gotten the word that his time with the big league club was coming to an end as he had been designated for assignment After taking time to talk to different teammates he made his way over to the media where he gave his time to explain his emotions at the time. After listening to him it was hard not to feel the immense respect he has for not only the Rays organization but the game of baseball.
Many assumed that he would go home to Clearwater, field offers from other teams, and presumably sign elsewhere for a chance to make it back to the big leagues. It was somewhat of a surprise to hear that he had agreed to a minor league deal with the Rays and would report to the Durham Bulls. Of course, he has an opt out should he choose to use it at the end of May.
So far with the Bulls he has appeared in seven games totaling eight innings. He has allowed two earned runs striking out 11 and only walking three. Last night he worked two innings of scoreless baseball in the Bulls 8-7 loss to the Rochester Red Wings.
No major changes this week except for the release of Hayden Timberlake by the Astros. Travis Blackley is still at extended spring working out but should be moved very shortly. A couple of players are still on the D/L including Peter Moylan, Allan de San Miguel and Daniel McGrath.
You will notice that the Ranger’s Todd McDonald is listed on their AAA team. It seems that he is there on rehab so he can work out with Jason Roberts, the Team Australia trainer, who works for them.
Other players continue at extended spring training which will conclude next month when short season A and rookie seasons will commence.
Players in full season teams
Majors: Liam Hendriks (Blue Jays),
Players at Extended Spring
Short Season A: Aaron Sookee [D’Backs],
Rookie: Dean Aldridge (Tigers), Jack Barrie [Twins], Beau Bishop [Brewers], Jake Bowey [Astros], Jared Cruz (Astros), Ryan Dale (Royals), Sam Gibbons [Twins], Josh Guyer (Twins), Elliott Hargreaves [Reds], Nick Hutchings (Pirates), Sam Kennelly (Pirates), Ben Leslie [Giants], Connor MacDonald (Astros), Lachlan Madden (Astros), Todd McDonald (Rangers), Dakota Mitchell (Reds), Aaron Sayers [Tigers], Brad Simon (Rangers), Brandon Stenhouse (Yankees), Jake Turnbull [Reds], Aaron Whitefield (Twins), Lachlan Wells [Twins]
Peter Moylan [Braves] – Rookie League Player/Coach
Rehab: Lewis Thorpe (Twins),
Ryan Battaglia [Indians],
John Hussey (Padres),
Travis McDonald (Reds)
James Philibossian (Tigers),
Adam Silva [Yankees],
Hayden Timberlake [Astros],
Here is Part 1 of MOST Sports Management’s Juco Div 1 World Series preview!!
Scott Tabrett of MOST S/M says he hopes this gives everybody out there an idea as to who some of the best schools are.
There are some incredibly talented athletes, some who will be drafted and many more who are or will be transferring onto great programs. Next to some guys you will see a school in brackets, this is where they have committed. For those that don’t know you will see some amazing schools including multiple guys transferring onto #1 LSU and #3 TCU.
Scott has also “stuck my neck out” and given an overall prediction as well as to how far he thinks each team can go. Anyone think different? Put forward your tip to Scott!
Where: Sam Suplizio Field Grand Junction, Colorado
When: Commences May 23
Format: Double Elimination
Teams: 10: San Jacinto, McLennan, Walters State, Delgado/St Louis, Iowa Western, USC Sumter, NW Florida State, Dodge City, Chattahoochee, Yavapai
Defending Champion: Iowa Western
San Jacinto College (Texas)
Total World Series Appearances: 22 (last in 2012)
World Series Championships: 5 (1990)
How they got there: Won the Southern District Championship (Region 14). Qualified directly as a result.
About them: A national powerhouse year after year. Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte are their most famous alumni. Located near Houston, they have access to arguably one of the best recruiting basis in all of America. Out of the 22 World Series berths, they have made the final game on 13 occasions, highlighting the unbelievable talent and coaching they have at their disposal. Their roster is always loaded with guys who either draft or transfer onto D1 programs.
This year: Forget the record, San Jac play one of the toughest schedules in America. Whilst most schools schedule easy wins early in the year, San Jac played fellow World Series participant NW Floria State, as well as region 5 runner-up Odessa, fellow powerhouses Howard College, Chipola College and New Mexico Junior College. This is on top of their incredibly difficult conference schedule, which is a nightmare to get out of.
Offensively they placed 20th in the nation for batting average at .339, 29th in home runs and 17th in stolen bases. The offense is paced by Sophomore outfielder Walker Pennington (Texas A & M) who took out the Triple Crown for San Jac hitting .406 with 10hrs and 58 RBIs.
On the mound, the staff produced the nation’s 10th best ERA at 2.90. Sophomores Aaron Ford (Auburn), Riley Smith (LSU) and Alex Phillips ( Baylor) led the dominating staff.
Scott’s take: Have the talent and the coaching staff to go all the way. Played arguably the toughest schedule in America which should give them a big advantage having played so many tough games. They appear stacked on the mound and at the plate with very few weaknesses visible. Anything short of an appearance in the championship game will be a surprise.
Prediction: Should take care of business against McLennan and then the winner of Delgado/Walters State. Expect nothing short of a spot in the championship game.
Four Falcons Make All-Conference Baseball Selections
WICHITA, Kan. – The KCAC announced their 2015 Baseball All-Conference teams on Wednesday afternoon, with Friends University having four selections and taking home two Gold Glove awards.
Matt Burke (SR/Ventura, Calif.), Brett Clark (JR/Temecula, Calif.), and Jordan Varga (SR/Port Colquitlam, British Colum) were named Second Team All-KCAC.
Burke was the designated hitter selection after leading the team with 55 hits. He was 2nd on the Falcons in batting average (.369), at bats (149), doubles (14), RBIs (32), total bases (71), and slugging (.477). Burke was #8 in the KCAC in doubles, #11 in batting average, and #16 in hits.
Clark led the Falcons with a 2.47 ERA, but lack or run support held him to a 5-6 record on the season. He struck out 66 batters in 76.2 innings of work, and opponents hit just .212 against him. Clark threw a no-hitter against McPherson on April 3rd to earn KCAC and NAIA PItcher of the Week Honors. He led the KCAC in opponent batting, was #3 in ERA, and #7 in strikeouts.
Varga finished 1st on the team in batting average at .370, was 2nd in hits (54), and 3rd in at bats (146), total bases (67), and doubles (8). He was #9 in the conference in batting average and #20 in hits.
Making the Honorable Mention team was Charlie Aznavoorian (JR/Sydney, Australia) who batted .340 and led the Falcons in runs (39), on base percentage (.455), and stolen bases (16). He also led the team in walks (20), and hit by pitch (12). Aznavoorian was #8 in the KCAC in stolen bases and on base percentage, and #16 in runs scored.
In addition to their team selections, Clark and Aznavoorian were chosen as Gold Glove recipients as well.
Aznavoorian committed just four errors in 158 chances (.975 fielding), mostly at third base, but also spending time at second and short due to injuries. He was #4 in the conference in assists per game at 2.38. The Gold Glove is the 2nd of his career, also winning one his freshman season.
Clark had just one error in 35 chances (.971) on the mound.
Click here to read the full conference release.
Buffs Season Comes to an End with 3-2 Loss to St. Mary’s in NCAA South Central Regional
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – The West Texas A&M baseball season came to an end Saturday with a 3-2 loss to St. Mary’s in an elimination game in the NCAA South Central Regional at Suplizio Field. WT ended its season at 36-20, while St. Mary’s improved to 40-15.
“Gardner (Kris) did an outstanding job, he kept us off balance all day,” WT head coach Matt Vanderburg said. “We weren’t able to get the big hit, I am very proud of this group of guys and we have 13 seniors who are the heart and soul of this team and I can’t say enough about those guys.”
WT scored two runs in the third inning, but a two run home run from Derek Hamilton tied the game in the fourth inning and the Rattlers scored the winning run in the top of the eighth. WT had runners at the corners with two away in the bottom of the eighth, but were unable to bring home the tying run.
Offensively, the Buffs struggled Saturday as they had two runs on five hits, while SMU tallied three runs on eight hits. The top six in the WT order went a combined 1 for 24. Senior Max Brennen went 2 for 3 with a run scored to lead the team, while senior Ryan March was 1 for 4 with a RBI. It also marked the 26th game this season decided by one run for the Buffs as WT finished 14-12 in one run games.
WT junior Justin McAllister (2-3) went seven innings, allowing six hits, three earned runs, one walk and he fanned four. SMU pitcher Kris Gardner went the distance allowing five hits, two earned runs, walked none and fanned seven.
The Buffs used a single, the first hit of the game, in the third inning by Brennen and then senior Johnny Gaines singled through the left side for two on base. March singled home Gaines and then junior Matt Cole hit a RBI sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth, Brooks Orton began the frame with a double to c enter. Hamilton then hit a two run blast to left for a 2-2 score.
In the top of the eighth for St. Mary’s, Scott Jones doubled to right to begin the inning as the Buffs made a call to the bullpen in favor of senior Paul Lujan. Orton then singled up the middle for a RBI and a 3-2 lead.
In the bottom of the eighth, Brennen came up with his second single of the day with one away. Junior Mason Shiflett pinch-hit and belted a single through the left side for on. March flied out to center field wall and Brennen advanced to third on a wild pitch. A ground out ended the threat.
Max Shared On Facebook : “My college career officially came to an end today. After being at three different colleges and being apart of five college seasons, there is no group of guys that I would have wanted to spend my last one with than this years team. This team means the world to me and I will never forgot this year and what we accomplished. I’m proud of each and every one of the guys and I know the returning players will get after it next year and get to the next level. Can definitely say the past five months has been the greatest time I’ve ever had in my life. Here’s to the next chapter ” and a great last chapter is was.