Emeralds engage community during World Cup preparations
29 August 2016
Under Baseball Australia Hall of Famer and national women’s coach Simone Wearne, Aussie Emeralds are in the final phase of preparations for the Women’s Baseball World Cup that starts in Gijang City, South Korea, on Saturday 3 September.
Along with the training sessions and practice matches held since its arrival in Korea, the Australian squad has already endeared itself to many by running coaching clinics and involving itself in cultural interchange in a “whole of sport” approach that will not be lost on local interests.
Ranked three in the world, the Australian team has participated at all seven World Cups - counting this tournament - finishing fourth four times while earning a silver medal in 2012 and a bronze medal in 2014.
The squad’s superb record at the event has drawn the attention of many in the baseball and broader community, with multinational construction company Boral inking an exciting two-year sponsorship deal with the women’s team to add to its current support of the Australian Baseball League and the All-Star Game.
The tournament has been expanded from eight to twelve teams, drawn in three groups – with the Emeralds slated to play fellow Group C squads in United States (ranked second in the world), Chinese Taipei (sixth) and Hong Kong (ninth).
Winner of the last four World Cups and understandably ranked one in the world, Japan is expected to be among the toughest teams to beat along with United States – which was gold medallist at the first two tournaments (2004 and 2006).
Both the schedule and the turnover in personnel since 2014 will present challenges for the Australian squad of twenty – including ten rookies - that was selected after a training camp on the Gold Coast during July.
It is a task that Head Coach Simone Wearne is relishing, and it is one for which she believes her charges will be well-prepared – physically and mentally – after a period of training, fine-tuning and acclimatisation during the week leading into the tournament.
“We arrived in Korea on Friday night and we are staying in Incheon,” Simone Wearne told Australian Baseball Alumni on Sunday evening.
“We had our first training and practice game both on Saturday. We won the game 4-3.”
“Brit Hepburn pitched three innings, Amy Collins two, Linda Gough and Jordan Richardson one each.”
“Our defence was solid, with some nice plays by short stop Bronwyn Gell, and good work out in centrefield by Morgan Doty,” she said.
“The stand-out hitters were Olivia Bannon with two hits including a double, Claire O'Sullivan with a double and Tahnee Lovering with a triple.”
“It was a great first up game where the girls could get out and swing the bats and get some work in.”
After training on Sunday the Emeralds squad ran two clinics that were extremely well-received by the local community despite the language difference that Simone Wearne regarded as a minimal barrier between those sharing a common interest.
“We ran a two-hour clinic with two women’s baseball teams from Korea – Nine Vics and Black Pearls,” she said.
“Our players ran various skills groups and taught the Korean players a range of new things. It was great to see our players teaching other women from another country. Not many spoke English, but baseball always seems to be the universal language.”
“We then ran a clinic for Korean Little League players,” Simone Wearne said. “There were some great kids who enjoyed running around with the Aussie girls and learning more about the game.”
“It was an experience for the local kids and definitely beneficial for our players to interact with kids from another cultural background.”
On Sunday night the Emeralds squad travelled to a Korean Major League game, where they were invited onto the field for pre-game in another wonderful opportunity to showcase Australia – and Australian ballplayers – to the Korean community.
“We watched the SK Wyverns - at their home field - playing Hanwha Eagles,” Wearne said. “The girls had a great time.”
“On Monday we will be doing a cultural visit and then another practice game after lunch.”
Australia will face Chinese Taipei first up on Saturday 3 September, starting at 3.00 PM (AEST), followed by other pool games against United States and Hong Kong before the top two teams from each of the three groups progress to the Super Round played from 7-10 September.
Medals games are scheduled for 11 September.
All games will be played at the recently-completed Gijang-Hyundai Motor Dream Ballpark (see aerial image below) – the largest amateur baseball complex in Korea that boasts four diamonds and state-of the art related facilities for players and spectators.
Online coverage is expected to be intense and will include regular work by Australian baseball media personality Craig “Frita” Kernick. Links to streaming and other services will be provided in these pages as available.
With the assistance of our contacts in Gijang City, Australian Baseball Alumni will seek to provide daily reporting on the Women’s Baseball Cup, which we expect will also be a priority for our friends at Baseball Australia.
On behalf of our Committee of Management, our members and supporters, Australian Baseball Alumni extends our very best wishes to the Emeralds squad for a successful tournament as it again pits itself against the best women baseballers in the world.