ABL extends regular season for 2015/16
18 May 2015
Australian Baseball League will play a significantly longer home and away season in 2015/16, with each club scheduled for fifty-six games.
This represents a twenty per cent increase on last season and it is consistent with league undertakings from the very start that the national competition will be subject – over time - to a manageable expansion programme.
While anticipated, expansion of the regular season has implications and it poses certain challenges for an Australian grassroots community that can arguably do more to help embrace what is a terrific baseball product.
The regular season will start on 23 October and will run through with minimal interruption to a Championship Series scheduled for the first week in February.
Home and away series have been scheduled up until 20 December this year and will resume on Boxing Day before a full calendar of games right through January.
Each club will play seven four-game home series.
Opening Round games will be played in Perth (at home to Adelaide Bite), Canberra (at home to Brisbane Bandits) and Melbourne (at home to Sydney Blue Sox).
In scheduling games right through the holiday season, the Australian Baseball League is clearly focused on maximising spectator support while being mindful of club baseball – which in most states winds up in mid-December and resumes in mid to late January.
What remains a concern is the matter of attendances at ABL games and it will be interesting to note whether or not the games scheduled during the Christmas holiday season will be able to draw consistent numbers. While Perth Heat and Adelaide Bite drew an average of over 1000 per game during the 2014/15 regular season (Perth was well ahead on 1357 per game), the other states recorded a consistently lower average than the figures that were given five years ago as a break-even level for any game.
What has become abundantly clear to all over the past several years is that the success and long-term viability of the Australian Baseball League are inextricably linked to the creation of positive working links between the ABL clubs and the state associations – evidenced, especially, by the great success that Perth Heat has enjoyed in the west.
Approaching the sixth season of the revamped national league, one assumes that principal shareholders in Major League Baseball and Baseball Australia will be trusting in improved showings by all clubs – but especially those in the east – including Melbourne (which has disappointed fans in the second most populous city) and Sydney (which has been a regular finalist without being able to stamp its authority on the league).
For the Australian Baseball League to have a serious chance of longer-term viability, Victoria and New South Wales clearly need to have a strong presence. While the Perth Heat club has done magnificently well, while Canberra has enjoyed some great success, Adelaide has had a couple of terrific seasons and Brisbane appears consistently on the improve in a proud baseball state, a Melbourne Aces breakout season is regarded by many as the thus far missing link if the league is to become entrenched into mainstream sporting culture.
Six clubs. Six vibrant entities driven by strong administration, effective management and quality playing personnel that includes our own emerging baseball superstars complemented by proven and exciting professionals. That surely needs to be the current focus of the Australian Baseball League, its supporters and our state associations.
Across the Tasman, there are noises being made about a possible entry of a New Zealand side to Australian Baseball League in the not so distant future. And there is the ongoing chat about private ownership and about potential clubs being formed along the eastern seaboard.
All of that is surely some distance down the track. Our more immediate focus should be on supporting the six current clubs and on supporting the Australian Baseball League – in such manners as we are able – as it moves towards its sixth season in a crowded Australian sports market.
We look forward to an exciting build-up towards the 2015/16 Australian Baseball League season.
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