Australia surges in baseball rankings
30 March 2017
International rankings this week released by the World Baseball and Softball Confederation list Australia at eighth – not far adrift of Venezuela and Mexico after a steady accumulation of points over the past two years that has most recently enabled us to leapfrog both Canada and Netherlands.
The eighth ranking is as high as Australia has ever reached, reflective of the burgeoning success of our elite development strategies and providing great heart for baseball administration with the 2019 Premier 12 and 2020 Olympic Games now well in focus for international baseball.
The surge in Australian ranking owes much to the efforts of a revamped Baseball Australia High Performance programme headed by former Major Leaguer Glenn Williams, who is clearly excited and enthused by news of the WBSC announcement – especially with two of our under-aged teams to contest World Cup tournaments later this year.
Performances at recent international tournaments – including World Baseball Classic earlier this month – have consistently earned WBSC ranking points for Australia, which is now well within reach of seventh-placed Venezuela (371 ahead) and sixth-placed Mexico (528 ahead).
Powerhouse baseball nations in Japan, United States, Korea, Chinese Taipei and Cuba have unsurprisingly retained their positions atop the rankings list as they continue to enjoy regular playing success at international tournaments.
“According to the WBSC, eighth is the highest that Australia has ever been ranked,” Glenn Williams told Australian Baseball Alumni today. “I am unsure if they mean just in the new ranking system, but it is definitely a good result for us. And very encouraging.”
“Japan, USA, Korea and Taipei obviously have excellent programs and depth of talent,” he said. “They always commit to great performances internationally and they go into every tournament with a chance of being the world champions. They have accumulated a lot of points over a number of years so cracking into the top four or five is a big task for us.”
“It doesn’t mean that we won’t keep working towards that target though.”
With Australia already having qualified for the 2017 Under 12 World Cup (Taipei, July/August)) and the 2017 Under 18 World Cup (Canada, in September), there is a very real chance of further improvement in our world ranking.
“There is absolutely an opportunity presented to us,” Glenn Williams said. “Thanks to successful Oceania tournaments earlier in the year, the Under 12 and Under 18 teams will be playing to accumulate more points. As the World Ranking system works on a four-year cycle, the points earned in 2013 for these particular tournaments will be removed. Dependant on where our teams finish, we will be rewarded with the appropriate amount of points.”
"Our immediate focus will be on doing as well as we possibly can at international tournaments at all levels and aiming for any upward ranking movement which might accrue from that."
While Australian performance at the World Baseball Classic guarantees a spot at the 2021 event –assuming that it goes ahead – and places us pretty well for the 2019 Premier 12 - international sporting focus will be placed increasingly on the 2020 Olympic Games, which will include baseball.
Olympic sports are clearly better-placed than others to secure substantial funding for their programmes – especially where there is any legitimate chance of a medal.
“Baseball will be a six-team competition at the Olympics with the qualification process still to be determined,” Williams said. “There are certain criteria that the qualification process has to meet, though we expect a combination of performance at qualifying tournaments – such as Premier 12 – with some form of regional qualification.”
“Obviously the six-team format is going to make it a challenge for us to qualify – even when we do know the final process. Qualifying would provide a massive boost for our baseball programmes because Australian Institute of Sport prioritises Olympic Games among its key considerations.”
“While we are waiting on detail about the qualifying process for the Olympics, baseball needs to pursue the course that will give us the best chance of qualifying,” he said. “It is critical that we ensure that our players are prepared for tournaments and that we have the best players available wherever possible.”
“With teams from Under 12 through to senior level travelling the world to play in World Cup and other events, there are obviously financial constraints among a lot of moving parts.”
“Having Australian Institute of Sport supporting us is absolutely vital for us to continue to execute our plans for baseball development.”
During a week of good news for Australian baseball it was announced that thirteen of our emerging young players would be included in the World Select squad of twenty-nine that will be competing in a United States tour starting in early April. Those players are well-placed to avail themselves of opportunities as the next generation of elite players is exposed to competitions including Premier 12, World Baseball Class and Olympic Games.
“The World Select project is another step in the right direction for us,” Glenn Williams said. “MLB continue to be major sponsors of what we do, and that is a credit to the guys who have run our programmes so well for a number of years.”
“We will continue to work with MLB and we will be making some adjustments this coming year that will provide more opportunity for more players. Having our guys experience playing in the United States without the financial burden that is usually attached, and to showcase what their players, and our players can do is a great thing.”
“I am excited to get over there and see the kids in action,” he said.