Former Kansas City Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, now with the Melbourne Aces.
Former Kansas City Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, now with the Melbourne Aces. Joe Robbins

Australian Baseball League considering expansion

BASEBALL Australia is negotiating with Asian interests to expand the six-team Australian Baseball League as early as next year.

BA chief executive Ben Foster said teams financed by Asian baseball enthusiasts could be based in Australia, stocked with players from their nation.

One plan, according to Foster, was for all games to be played at the grounds of existing ABL clubs and broadcast to their home country during the baseball off-seasons in that nation.

Asked if the BA board was looking to add two more teams, Foster said: "We are toying with it at the moment. There is potentially some international options, domestically based teams but comprised of some foreign players.

"We've had some initial interest from Asia. We have the Chinese Taipei team in Australia this week for (their preparations towards) the World Baseball Classic. We had some strong ties with Korea and Japan.

"Between those countries is where we are looking.

"We will be back at least as big if not bigger and better next season."

Australian sports competitions have tried many ways over the years to tap into Asia for growth and income.

The ABL championship series between Melbourne and Brisbane, starting on Friday, will be broadcast live on the ABLTV YouTube channel, one year after it was telecast in Australia and some overseas markets by ESPN.

But Foster said the present season had been a good result despite it being the first since the American Major League Baseball organisation divested itself of its part-ownership of the ABL.

"It's been a resounding success. We had a few sceptics coming into this year," he said.

Some of the best recruits in the ABL's history have featured this year, including Melbourne recruit Jeremy Guthrie, who was starting pitcher in two games of the 2014 MLB World Series for the Kansas City Royals.

Foster said the Melbourne Aces were waiting to hear if Guthrie would be back to play in the championships series against Brisbane after heading home for reasons including contract talks.

Under ABL rules at least one Australian pitcher must start in one of the first two playoff games.

Brisbane Bandits head coach David Nilsson said he expected the Aces' American Mark Hamburger to start in Friday's opening game in Melbourne.

"Players like Guthrie and Hamburger have come because they've played with guys who have been in Australia and said the baseball is competitive and a great environment," Foster said.

News Corp Australia

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