Korean squad embraced by harbour city

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Kingsley Collins

8 November 2018

 

With its players already engaged in intensive training after arrival last week, an impressive Korean baseball contingent was today extended a hearty civic reception by the Geelong community as it continues preparations for its debut season in Australian Baseball League – which starts next week.

 

At least for its inaugural year, the Asian entry will play as Geelong-Korea, although its base will remain as Geelong Baseball Centre for at least two, and up to five years of the new franchise – one of two licences granted by Baseball Australia, with the other being New Zealand Tuatara playing out of Auckland.

 

Held in pleasant conditions at the Waurn Ponds complex, today’s reception was indeed a positive and uplifting occasion, with a Welcome to Country Ceremony performed by traditional owners of the land preceding a series of formal addresses by state government, baseball and council officials. 

 

The Korean squad was also treated to some eye-opening close encounters with Australian native wildlife – kindly provided by Animals of Oz.  

 

Managed by Dae-Sung Koo – a man with an extraordinary record of baseball playing longevity in Korea, Major League Baseball and more recently with Sydney Blue Sox – the Geelong-Korea team has drawn in the South West Division of Australian Baseball League, which will see it pitted against established clubs in the new South-West Division and play further crossover games against clubs in the North East Division.

 

While staying at Deakin University, the Korean squad will have access to first-class training and recovery facilities both at the university and in immediate vicinity of the Waurn Ponds complex.

 

A city with a lengthy and distinguished baseball history dating back to the late nineteen thirties, Geelong boasts one of the outstanding baseball complexes in Australia – including its fully-lit stadium and three other quality fields, one of those fully synthetic.

 

Geelong Baseball Centre was primarily developed to host the 2002 World Masters Games and it has since played host to Australian Baseball League games, Chiba Lotte Marines training camps, national championships at all levels and Baseball Victoria Winter Championships.

 

While recent enhancements already have the stadium looking in pristine condition, further works will be conducted over weeks and months to come – a joint effort between the Victorian state government and City of Greater Geelong, who are both acutely aware of the enormous potential benefits to be derived from the Korean presence.

 

Extending a warm welcome to the Korean squad, Victorian Minister for Tourism and Major Events John Eren spoke of the “trade, sporting and tourism opportunities” that would be delivered through the Geelong/Korea baseball project, especially with games being broadcast live into Asia and the impact that is likely to have on already burgeoning numbers of Korean visitors to Victoria.

 

Aside from the “cultural links” that would be enhanced, Mr Eren spoke of this being the “perfect time to help build the sport” (of baseball) – especially with readmission to the Olympics for 2020.

 

Reiterating Mr Eren’s emphasis on the importance of our relationship to Asia through sporting connections, Baseball Australia Chief Executive Officer Cam Vale paid particular credit to the City of Greater Geelong, to the Geelong community, and to the nation of Korea – in this instance led by Winterball Korea.

 

“This project has been a long time coming,” Vale said. “It has probably been on the agenda for twenty years. It will be a great catalyst for our baseball to actually take the sport – and our league – into Asia.”

 

Speaking through a translator, Geelong/Korea Manager Dae-Sung Koo and Winterball Korea CEO Jerry Kim both expressed their appreciation of the support they have thus far received in the harbour city. While aware of the playing challenges facing the club in its foray into Australian Baseball League, both are clearly upbeat about their prospects of making a serious and ongoing impact.

 

More than that, a clearly enthused Mr Kim expressed the view that – with support of the local community – Geelong/Korea will “make this city the face of Australia”.

 

In again acknowledging the traditional people of this land, City of Greater Geelong Mayor Mr Bruce Harwood welcomed the Korean squad and expressed his anticipation for this new, ground-breaking Australian Baseball League season.

 

“I’m really looking forward to the season,” Mr Harwood said. “If we can win (the championship) then we we’ll be having a big party. If we lose, we still will!”

 

Given the welcoming spirit, the excitement and the baseball joy that was palpable at the civic reception, it is clear that Geelong/Korea, its supporters and its host community are in for a fun ride.

 

Geelong-Korea will play its first series as an away fixture against Sydney Blue Sox (November 15-18) before a first highly-anticipated home opener against Perth Heat (November 22-25).

 

Scroll down for a selection of images from Geelong Baseball Centre today (credit: Australian Baseball Alumni)