Hall of Famer takes reins with Heat
1 May 2015
Blessed with a core of astute and committed baseball people, Perth Heat last week named Australian Hall-of-Famer and former Olympian Tony Adamson as its Chief Executive Officer.
A fearsome hitter in the earlier Australian Baseball League - and the 1988 Helms Award winner among other accolades - Adamson is a recently retired businessman and baseball icon in the west who has accepted the role after being a Perth Heat Director for the past five years.
He assumes the CEO role with a mission that delivers a potent message to other ABL clubs playing catch-up : “Our goal is to get better”.
Starting as CEO last week, Tony Adamson has long been a favourite son of Perth Heat – a former manager who for the past five years has served as a Club Director fulfilling a volunteer role in baseball operations for an organisation that has set a challenging benchmark for other ABL clubs.
“Yes, I have been around the club for a while,” Tony Adamson told Australian Baseball Alumni this week. “When I retired from my business interests two years ago, I felt that I could – and I should - lend a hand.”
The 52 year-old has hit the ground running as his club charts its course into the 2015/16 season.
“Our immediate priorities are to secure naming rights sponsorship for the stadium, to renew our current sponsors and expand on our membership,” he said. “Our sponsors and the service that we aim to provide to our members are fundamental to our organisation.”
“Those areas will occupy our time pretty much over the next two to two and half months. And of course we will be looking more closely at our coaching group and the recruitment of players once we have reviewed all our structures.”
Winning four out of the five championships in the resurrected Australian Baseball League, Perth Heat has continued to make the running for all ABL clubs, with its remarkable playing success attributable to a number of factors.
“On field we have been blessed. Our product is second to none in the ABL,” Tony Adamson said. “We have a core group of quality Australians who play pretty much all of the time – here and in United States. When it comes to the start of the ABL season we – and the players - are ready to go.”
Enjoying a long-standing and positive relationship with Major League Baseball – especially Baltimore Orioles - Perth Heat has been able to top up its consistently impressive playing list as the need has presented itself. Among several persons who have been entrusted with the task of nurturing the current group of Australians and recruiting other personnel as required is outgoing CEO Lachlan Dale – who is now the General Manager of Baseball Western Australia.
“Lachlan did a great job for the Heat and he will continue to have a role with recruitment,” Tony Adamson said. “He is a very much valued member of the organisation, although we need to be careful not to overload him with work, given his job with Baseball WA.”
Like other ABL clubs, Perth Heat has yet to announce its coaching staff for the new season and it finds itself in a unique position given that Steve Fish has guided the club to the past two Claxton Shield titles.
“Club policy has been to keep our manager for two years. Steve has won two from two, which makes it very difficult to justify having a replacement,” Adamson said. “Even so, we are in the market for all coaching staff positions and – like other clubs - we are talking to people who might come on board.”
“Whatever happens – and even if he does not have an onfield coaching job - Steve will always have an important role to play with us. As High Performance Manager with Baseball Western Australia, he is a key person both with Perth Heat and in the sport generally.”
“Graeme Lloyd has been an integral part of our programme too. It would be brilliant to have him stay on, but it would it be great for the league if he decided to help out at another ABL club. Whatever choice he makes, he will have our blessing and our best wishes.”
As a former elite player with an outstanding record of achievement at Claxton Shield, Australian Baseball League and international level in the eighties and nineties, Tony Adamson is well-placed to help explain the stunning success of the Heat in recent times.
“It is a sporting culture that we have been able to build,” he said. “Guys want to play with us. We have a diehard group of them – mature, established, quality players who are committed to the club. We have a strong working relationship with Baseball Western Australia. We have great corporate support and member support that translates into consistently decent crowds.”
“None of this has happened by accident. It is hard work, and there is no room for complacency. Our goal is to up the ante every year that we play.”
Given his level of personal achievement and his long-standing engagement with the sport at administrative level, Tony Adamson is well-placed to make comparisons with the earlier ABL and to reflect upon some of the challenges that face the competition into the future.
“The level of imports early on in the old league was very good, but the standard of teams varied quite a bit. Some were very good, some not so good,” he said.
“The competition is now very strong and fairly even. It is certainly better overall than it was in the nineties. Probably AA level or better. And the beauty of this league is that it is so close. Even though we have won four of the five titles, we don’t know who is in the finals until the last week of home and away.”
“One obvious difference to me – between then and now - is the quality of the Australians playing overseas,” he explained. “There were a few back then – but not many. Now we have a whole bunch of guys playing at high levels – the likes of Beresford, De San Miguel, Oxspring, the Kennellys and a crop of emerging younger players apart from our Major Leaguers like Hendriks, Moylan and Blackley.”
While there has been talk of potential expansion of the Australian Baseball League – perhaps including New Zealand or other domestic entities – Tony Adamson has a clear sense of the more immediate challenges facing the developing league.
“I think the greatest challenge lies in the location of facilities,” he said. “Sydney and Melbourne have great stadiums but they are so far away from the CBD. We need better locations, but there is so much to be done to achieve that. It requires engagement of state governments, Australian government, councils and our corporate partners.”
“We have 10,000 people actively involved in baseball in Western Australia - one way or another. That number is growing all the time, so community interest in the sport is definitely there.”
“We want to continue to improve at what we do – every season,” he said. “Our goal is always to get better, and part of that lies in being able to improve our media exposure.”
“The standard of the baseball is so high. The ABL is a good product. Baseball people understand that. We just need to find ways of getting the message out there more effectively.”
Australian Baseball Alumni congratulates Tony Adamson on his appointment as CEO of Perth Heat. We thank him for his assistance in preparing this story and we wish him every success in helping take a terrific baseball club into the future.
2014-15 ABL Champions
Image: Perth Heat Facebook