Busan one aspect of long-term strategy
12 August 2019
UPDATE (26 August 2019): AUSTRALIA NAMES TWENTY-MAN WORLD CUP SQUAD
While addressing a range of opportunities currently challenging the sport at national and international levels, Australian baseball interests have been methodically going about identifying a squad best suited to represent our country at the Under 18 Baseball World Cup scheduled for late this month and into September. UPDATE (14 August): The final squad will be selected from this 37-man TRAINING CAMP ROSTER.
Qualifying for the Super Round and finishing fifth at this tournament two years ago, Australia has enjoyed a lengthy engagement in a time-honoured event that goes back nearly forty years – including a silver and five bronze medals for our teams over the journey.
With WBSC world ranking points there for taking, Australia will be directing its resources towards a strong showing whilst remaining cognisant of the bigger picture for our emerging young stars – many of whom have already stamped their credentials as players of the future.
Reaching the 2017 Super Round in Thunder Bay, Canada, the Australian team won four and lost four games overall against impressive international opposition, including a stunning result over Cuba – a nine-time series champion – and a gallant last round loss to United States, who have been gold medallists five times.
The 2019 Under 18 World Cup will be held in Busan, South Korea, from 30 August to 8 September.
Scheduled to play Nicaragua, Korea, China, Canada and Netherlands in the Opening Round in Busan this time around, Australia can again expect the unexpected from proven world baseball powers and emerging nations.
“It's tournament baseball, so it is difficult to anticipate what teams will be like and also how we will be set for games against them,” Baseball Australia Athlete General Manager Glenn Williams told Australian Baseball Alumni this week. “Sometimes you run into teams who have had a long or tough game the game prior so they are tad thin, sometimes the same thing happens to you. We have been pretty good of late in approaching each game separately and doing whatever we can to win those games.”
“The Under 18 event is one of the strongest in terms of players who are available in any team. With the effort that federations put into the tournament. I would expect that every game will be tough.”
“We will be going out there to compete in every contest,” he said.
While a final squad has not yet been announced, Baseball Australia has been working towards identifying and naming the squad to represent our nation, starting with a home series – expected to be in Lismore - against the Canadian national team, a first round opponent in Busan.
“The venue will be announced by Baseball Australia in the next few days pending the go-ahead from particular council interests,” Glenn Williams said. “Our guys are ready to roll.”
“We will be announcing a quality staff who have a really good amount of experience in the event,” he said. “We will be naming a roster of thirty-seven players for the Canada series - extended based on our inability to have all the athletes together for a period of time leading in.”
“We have leaned heavily on the state personnel for recommendations and updates on the athlete group and we have started using some of the technology we have at our disposal in that reporting realm.”
The Canada series will provide constructive player information and invaluable game time prior to the Under 18 World Cup – experience that Glenn Williams views as invaluable leading into the tournament proper.
“We have competed well at the last two editions of this event and we won critical games at critical moments in Thunder Bay,” he said. “But like any event, we will have to compete in every contest, execute in key situations and see how it all pans out for us.”
“The athletes who we have identified have all been working through their state programming and they are keen to sink their teeth into the Canada series and for those selected for Busan. Playing the games leading into the World Cup is always a good thing for our team and hopefully we can build some momentum coming out of Lismore and into Busan.”
The Under 18 World Cup will be the last of the major international baseball events before the Premier 12, which will be absolutely vital for Australia in its effort to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Given the age of the players selected for Busan – and even those missing out on the squad – there is more, much more ahead for that cohort over the next decade or more.
While the future of a potential World Baseball Classic in 2021 is still undetermined – and with baseball almost certainly out of the Olympics in 2024 – World Baseball Softball Confederation and affiliate nations will continue their commitment to confirming baseball as a genuine global sport through the delivery of elite tournaments and competition at all levels.
“That is the exciting thing about it all and the beauty of having a long-term view at programming and planning,” Glenn Williams said. “2020 is still very much a priority for us but longer term the 2028 games will be a target and the kids on this squad will be the prime age for when 2028 rolls around.”
“They all love playing for Australia and for some of these kids, they've heard the message for multiple under-aged teams now. There is a real buy in and willingness and a want to represent their country. For those who are college-bound and those that become professionals, there is a real commitment to having the conversations with their teams and colleges about the importance to them of playing for Australia if the opportunity presents itself.”
“It's so refreshing to hear the positive thoughts and aspirations from our young players.”
Australian Baseball Alumni extends its appreciation to Glenn Williams for his assistance in the preparation of this story. We look forward to announcement of the Under 18 World Cup squad, to which we extend our very best wishes for the Canada series and the Busan tournament.
While we will aim to offer our own modest reporting on the Under 18 World Cup, we heartily recommend our members and supporters to the high quality coverage now provided by our friends at Baseball Australia through their impressive new website and associated social media.