Schoolboy series highlights emerging talent
20 April 2017
Open to players seventeen years of age and younger, the School Sport Australia National Schoolboys Championship has showcased the very best in young baseball talent since its formal inception in 1989.
A time-honoured event that has been graced by literally hundreds of our emerging players – many of whom have gone on to higher honours at professional and collegiate level – the 2017 Championship will be played at Trinity Beach, Cairns, from 1-6 May.
Although reigning champion Western Australia will not be making the trek east this time, staunch competition is expected from participating teams representing Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria.
While the eastern states ran baseball competitions for schools since the 1940s, it took until much later for a coordinated approach to be developed – one that has enabled promising young players to compete with their peers at a high-quality national event delivered by School Sport Australia with the support of state associations and Baseball Australia.
This time attracting teams from Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and Australian Capital Territory, the National Schoolboys Championship continues to play an integral role in the development of our young talent base.
Offering players another exciting opportunity to represent their state outside of Baseball Australia National Youth Championships, the National Schoolboys Tournament very much provides a college-driven pathway that exposes our emerging young players to attention while enabling them in many cases to forge lifelong friendships in the sport.
Aside from providing elite playing opportunities and creating the environment for personal growth within a team setting, the National Schoolboys has for many years served to bring the sport into focus for young men as a potential career path.
Often including seminars conducted by United States college recruiting experts, the schoolboys programme opens up playing and study options for our young men baseball men – an increasing number of whom are now choosing to take up offers and pursue opportunities at college level.
There are currently around one hundred Australians at college in United States, a reflection on the worth and the accessibility of outstanding programmes that include the very best in support, coaching, strengthening and conditioning programmes and a serious focus on team betterment ahead of the individual.
While a professional career at Major League Baseball level remains a laudable dream for many of our aspiring ball players, the journey to reaching those dizzy heights is a daunting one that requires many years of hard, frustrating slog, a supreme abundance of talent and a serious slice of good fortune. In offering the opportunity to gain an education while playing baseball, the college option is becoming far more attractive to many of our young men, though still – as in the case of former Geelong product Josh Spence – keeping alive the prospect of a professional career at the highest level.
The number of our young players heading to college in United States has increased dramatically over the past twenty-five years – in part because of the exposure offered to the college option in a range of disciplines under the aegis of School Sports Australia – and over one hundred and fifty Australian baseball players have signed professional contracts either during or after their participation in schoolboys baseball.
Among those, South Australian Jack O’Loughlin inked a deal with Detroit Tigers after an outstanding schoolboys series in Perth last time.
Of that impressive and quite extraordinary professional total, a significant number have gone on to play Major League baseball, from Queenslander Cameron Cairncross (Golden Arm Award at the National Schoolboys in 1989) through to current Oakland staffer Liam Hendriks (who won the Golden Arm playing for Western Australia in 2006). Even earlier than, and since 1989 have been the likes of David Nilsson, Travis Blackley, Brad Harman, Spence, Damian Moss, Peter Moylan, Chris Oxspring, Chris Snelling, Phil Stockman, Rich Thompson, Glenn Williams and Jeff Williams – all of whom played schoolboys baseball and all of whom reached the pinnacle in professional sport.
There are more, many more household names in Australian baseball to have represented their state at Australian National Schoolboys level – including the likes of numerous current Australian Baseball League players and others who have gone on to achieve at high levels in the sport both here and overseas.
Inaugural winner of the National Schoolboys Championship in 1989, Victoria has been victorious seven times, while Western Australia (three) and Queensland (two) have both enjoyed success behind schoolboys powerhouse in New South Wales – with a remarkable record of sixteen championships and a rumoured fixation on atoning for last year’s loss in the Gold Medal game.
There is no doubt that the standard of play at the National Schoolboys Championship will again be outstanding as our emerging superstars strive for team success while seeking to impress the legion of scouts, families, club supporters and other interested parties who will be in attendance. Even more than that, there is an opportunity for the less-heralded players to step up and command attention as prospective college or professional players by doing something out of the ordinary.
While the opportunity will not be there for some of the 2017 contingent of players, every second year a national schoolboys squad is selected to travel and play overseas.
International schoolboys playing tours were introduced with a visit to Japan in 1992, followed by a Canadian trip in 1995 and a Florida series in 2000. Since 2005, an international tour has been held every two years – the last being a jam-packed United States itinerary in 2016 under Head Coach Peter Giles and Tour Manager Neil Barrowcliff, both of whom have been long-term and exemplary contributors to the development of Australian baseball players.
Touring teams have invariably been outstanding ambassadors for Australia, notwithstanding the costs that are incurred by families. For the National Schoolboys Championship alone, there is a substantial financial commitment required from families, who consistently have gone above and beyond to help ensure that they provide this unique opportunities for their sons.
We encourage all baseball people to assist in any legitimate fund-raising efforts to help offset the costs of young men participating in this wonderful baseball activity.
The National Schoolboys Baseball Championship will be played at Trinity Beach, Cairns, from 1-6 May 2017.
Australian Baseball Alumni extends its congratulations and best wishes to all players, coaches, officials and volunteers involved in delivery of what we know will be another outstanding series.
We will seek to provide day-by-day reporting on the event, thanks to the assistance of the fine people involved with Queensland Baseball Scorers’ Association - who will be scoring all games live.
For more information and contact details on Schoolboys Baseball, see the following links:
SCHOOL SPORT AUSTRALIA BASEBALL PAGES
QUEENSLAND BASEBALL SCORERS’ ASSOCIATION
AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL SCHOOLBOYS CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE 2017
HISTORY OF SCHOOL BASEBALL IN AUSTRALIA