Bases Loaded 29/11/13

In the first ever addition of Bases Loaded I discuss attendance, fixture and streaming issues in the Australian Baseball League.

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An open letter to future ABL imports

We've come a long way in three years

We’ve come a long way in three years

Dear future Australian Baseball League imports,

One day, someone is going to ask you if you’d like to play winter ball in Australia. If I was you, then I’d say yes, but of course it is more complicated than that.

The above picture shows where the league kicked off in 2010, a stadium, barely recognisable for baseball, with no shelter to protect fans on what was a very cold and wet Melbourne afternoon, where not a pitch was thrown.

Let’s flash forward to what it is at the moment, because after all that is what you are going to want to look at before deciding to come down here. Six great teams, with six great fan bases competing for one of the oldest trophies in Australian sport, with one of those teams potentially being 6-7 hours away from being crowned the champions of Asia.

The difference you see is that baseball isn’t going to get the media coverage that you would find in your own country, but we are moving in the right direction.

Media of some form are at every game, slugging it out to bring the loyal fan bases the latest news on the clubs that make summer more enjoyable, while on occasions the national media will see a story they like and run with it. So the chance is there.

The crowds might be smaller than what you are used to, but when push comes to shove we have the best elements of Minor League ball in the best country available to play your winter ball in.

The mid-inning games, the music blasting between pitches, the delicious yet at times questionable ballpark food, cramped hotels with guys that will go on to become lifelong friends.

You might need to look at a map to discover how big Australia is, or you might have to Google to make sure that we do in fact play baseball out here and that you aren’t being taken for a ride, but you know what?

If you give it your all then the fans are going to love you, and the front office may want you back next season too.

It might not be the Big League but we’ll do everything we can to make you feel like the next stop for you is Cooperstown.

See you soon.

XP

The Good, The Bad and the Inbestream

Woo! Uni is over and the ABL is back. Summer is perfect. Or is it?

So, wait. Is this happening?

So, wait, is this happening?

The ABL is three weeks into their fourth season and things are getting interesting.

On one hand the table is skewed because teams haven’t played the same amount of games, and on the other hand fans are frustrated because they aren’t getting what has been promised of them (see tagline of the above image).

Naturally, I can see things from about four thousand different perspectives.

Positive

  • Baseball is back :: As usual there isn’t a lot better than sitting in the sun taking in a ballgame, Sure the sunburn on my knees suggests otherwise, but why would you want to spend your weekend any other way given how reasonable the price of admission is? The standard of the league is getting better every year, as is the standard of import that the league is bringing in. As a result the results are tougher to predict and we could easily see a similar situation to what was seen on the last day of the season in 201–12
  • The Aces have Chilli Dogs this season :: I tucked into two of these on opening night. Well worth it, but BYO hot sauce if you are looking for some heat. Also, to the person I saw eating one with a fork – You are doing it wrong.
  • There is more media coverage of the league than ever :: News Limited, Fairfax, ABL Website, ABC Grandstand, Independent Media organisations, live radio shows. This must be what heaven looks like
  • Regular Social Media updates :: Teams are on Facebook and Twitter not only throughout games, but throughout the week in an attempt to give the fans a look at everything happening inside the organisation.
  • Cavs getting the job done in Asia :: Semi-Finalists at the Asia Series. Enough said.

Negative

  • Aces lack the Home Run dog :: It’s a real shame I didn’t get a chance to take down one metre of hot dog. Probably not something anyone besides me is missing.
  • The way media coverage is being handled is putting some fans offside :: Hashtags DO NOT WORK WITH PUNCTUATION #C’monAces is in fact #C . Does not mean anything. Social Media 101, and fans took the opportunity to appropriately vent about it on Sunday afternoon.
  • Clubs non-responsive to fan questions :: Many fans have asked questions about streaming situations (more on that below), or roster moves, and for whatever reason those questions are being left unanswered.
  • Cake / Pie of a humble variety for ABL “star” :: Luke Hughes  took to twitter over the weekend to display his discontent with Canberra taking players from other clubs for the Asia Series, yet attempted to justify that when Perth did it last season it was fine. Well, like it or lump it Hughesy, the Cavs have had more success in two days at the Asia Series than the Heat had in two years, and regardless of how that success comes it is great for the sport in Australia.

Inbestream

  • A dot point just won’t do for this.

So, where do I start on this point. ABLTV, the great digital hope. Finally fans could watch every game, only that hasn’t really happened. The Aces decision to stream only one of their three games this weekend has fans in a spin, and has me concocting theories as to what lead to this. Given the deal they have with SEN, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are only going to stream games where the audio is provided by the SEN team. Do I think this is acceptable? By no means, especially given the directive which has coming from the league, which stipulates that teams are to stream every game live. Whatever happens I hope there is an answer soon, because if the league get ABLTV right, then they are one step closer to striking it rich in the gold mine they are currently sitting on.

Broad-Casting

Over the last month there has been extensive discussion within Australian media circles on the potential results of American style broadcasting in a country where the concept of commentators for teams seems so foreign. Here’s why it’s the only way forward for Australia.

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When Richmond took on Collingwood in Round Four of the AFL premiership season earlier this year, viewers had the option to “Press red for Ed”.

No, pressing the red button would not bring up a picture of the Collingwood presidents reaction to their blown lead in the 2010 Grand Final, but give viewers the opportunity to hear a Collingwood based commentary team.

I only heard a small amount of the commentary and despite the fact I’m a long way from a Collingwood fan it was one of the best things I’ve heard in Australian sport.

It wasn’t the best in terms of commentary, but it was the best because I had a commentary team who had a much deeper understanding of the Collingwood Football Club then the average commentator.

Earlier this week the Herald Sun revealed that the AFL are hoping to broadcast their own games by the end of the 2016, which again throws open the window for team based commentary.

Imagine this, the Western Bulldogs are playing in Brisbane on a Saturday night and rather than listening to the likes of Brian Taylor and Richo, I have the chance to listen to Marcus Ashcroft and Bernie Quinlan.

If I’m a Brisbane fan (which I’m not, but I have a soft spot for them), then that’s going to be my preference any day of the week because I’m going to hear more positives about my team from people who had the history that I know inside and out.

This isn’t to say there is no room for journalists in the broadcast box, with Vin Scully from the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball being the perfect example.

Scully never played Big League ball, working as a journalist and beginning his career with the Dodgers in 1950.

Wouldn’t that longevity be something to see in Australia?

This is a technique which has already been explored in the lower tier sports in Australian, with the ABL, AIHL and NBL all having team specific broadcasters.

Through these broadcasts we can also see an increase in revenue for media organisations, with companies such as Hewitt Sports reaping the rewards. HSN have had broadcast rights for AIHL games while the Brisbane Bandits have two innings per game called by HSN Beat Writer John Grey, in what has become known as the “Hewitt Sports Hangout”.

Sport has turned from a game into a business over the last three decades, and the best way for this transition to be complete will be for leagues and teams to break away from the current broadcast mould and display the independence fans should be so desperately craving.

Do you have a favourite franchise based broadcast team? Do you have suggestions on who the best team could be in your favourite sport? Let me know below.