World Select "a massive game changer"
22 September 2016
While the Australian Schoolboys tour of United States continues to present our baseball in a positive light, Baseball Australia this week announced an exciting initiative that will maximise existing links with Major League Baseball in helping create opportunities for our emerging players.
Ten Australian teenagers have been selected to the World Select Team – a squad of thirty from MLB Academy programmes across the globe that will spend two weeks touring and playing in United States during October, including participation at the prestigious Arizona Fall Classic.
Pivotal to the relevant negotiations with Major League Baseball, Baseball Australia High Performance Manager Glenn Williams is confident of the potential benefits of the tour to individual players and to the longer-term success of our national teams.
In securing our participation in the World Select project, Baseball Australia has worked closely with Major League Baseball and with various international MLB programmes – including our counterparts in Italy, Germany, Netherlands and South Africa among developing baseball nations.
“The whole aim of our involvement is to showcase the kind of players Australia has to offer,” Glenn Williams told Australian Baseball Alumni. “We will be seeking to build contacts and connections that will help Baseball Australia and its affiliates to guide players in the right direction and to open the doors for hopefully plenty more to come.”
“We want to ensure that we do all that we possibly can to create opportunities for our players – whether they might be in college or in professional baseball,” he said.
“A coordinated approach to this process is essential if we are to maximise the benefit to our players and more particularly for our national programmes. We need to make sure that what we are doing is giving ourselves the best chance of getting to pinnacle baseball events – especially the Olympic Games.”
“Helping get kids to college is great for them, and is great for their development,” he said, “but in order to be productive for Australian baseball overall we need to have our best players available for us in events that affect our world ranking and ultimately determine whether Australian Institute of Sport views us as a serious contender for an Olympic medal.”
The ten players will leave on 5 October and will return on 19 October. They will form part of the World Select squad playing games against colleges in Memphis Tennessee and then heading to the invitational Arizona Fall Classic in Peoria.
“The schedule will give the kids a chance to play a bunch of games in front of professional and college recruiting people,” Williams said. “There will be over 200 schools at the Fall Classic, which gives some idea of what our players will be exposed to.”
Selection of the ten Australian players was based on a number of considerations that naturally included skill level among other vital factors such as work ethic, coachability, educational potential, commitment, approachability and other personal strengths.
“We are taking players of seventeen and eighteen years of age,” said Glenn Williams, himself a former Major Leaguer who will be on hand to offer his own perspectives and to liaise and connect with college coaches, recruiters and professional personnel.
“The players were selected through information provided by state-based personnel, national team staff and through viewing them in action at the MLBAAP. It was also roster-dependent as we worked with other countries in finalising the thirty players.”
“We were especially interested in players who we felt would best represent Australian baseball.”
“It was a tough decision – and given the timing, some potential players were unavailable due to school examinations,” he said.
The ten Australian players have been drawn from six mainland states and territories.
Josh Bedggood, Luke Turner, Luke Cronan and Jordan Thomson all hail from Queensland, Matt Beattie and Oliver Dunn from Victoria, Jess Williams from Western Australia. Jordan McArdle is from South Australia and Nic Anderson-Vine will represent New South Wales. Now living in Australian Capital Territory after growing up in Victoria, Mitch Edwards comes from a terrific baseball family that includes his father John Edwards, who played minor league baseball with Minnesota Twins.
Currently touring with the National Schoolboys squad, Bedggood, Turner and McArdle will join the World Select Team in early October.
Glenn Williams is personally enthused and very much looking forward to a tour that he believes will be of long-lasting benefit to Australian baseball.
“We have finally gotten into a position where we can provide something that will give weight to our programmes and will assist our players,” he said. “Major League Baseball has been great in supporting this project and we are excited to have been invited and to have been able to offer players something with real substance that doesn't cost them anything."
“We recognise college as a great pathway for the right player, taking into account all of the variables – like family, finances and personal motivation – and we want to help open the right doors for kids who are suited to college, as well as those signing professionally.”
“This initiative is a massive game-changer for our Baseball Australia programmes and it will give us much-needed credibility in the college space as a national federation opposed to a commercial entity,” he said.
“At the same time, we are acutely aware that our national team competitions are vital to our 2020 Olympics qualification chances. If schools and players aren’t aware of that, then we run the risk of putting sub-standard teams on the field for events that count towards world rankings.”
“The challenge for us is in ensuring that we develop strong relationships with schools – not only to help the kids get there but more importantly to make sure we get the kids available for our national teams when it really counts,” Williams said.
In thanking Glenn Williams for his assistance with this story, Australian Baseball Alumni extends its congratulations and best wishes to the ten young men selected for the World Select Team in a wonderful initiative that will be followed closely by our own baseball community.
MLBAAP image: Baseball Australia