Friday, June 28, 2013

Eating HuMLBe Pie

In a post at the start of last week, I was critical of the cost of the tickets for the Sydney 2014 MLB Opening Series, saying that I believed that "the promoters are treating this like a rock concert and are expecting the tickets to sell out in a couple of hours, without realising that baseball struggles to get fans through the gate, and that Sydney sports fans are particularly fickle about attending games."

Advertising spot for the Sydney 2014 MLb Opening Series

Well, I'm going to have to eat humble pie. Despite the exorbitant prices and the poor seating, the tickets have been selling, in the words of the ABL, "like hot cakes". The last I checked, ticket availability for the game I had been considering going to was:

Saturday night game (22nd Mar 2014). Ticket availability and costs in $AU*
Grandstand Outfield tickets $69 ea - Sold Out
Outfield tickets $99 ea - Sold Out
Bronze tickets $169 ea - Sold Out
Silver tickets $259 ea - only single tickets available
Gold $369 and Platinum $499 tickets - only single tickets available.
*(For Americans not familiar with the current $AU/$US exchange rate, they are roughly about the same in value - $AU1.00 has been worth between $US0.92 and $US1.03 over the last couple of months.)

For the Sunday game, sales have been a little bit slower, but are still going well, with all Outfield and Bronze tickets sold, and the Silver level only having single tickets available.

I was wrong - people are forking out the money. Lets hope that this translates through to increased levels of interest in the Australian Baseball League.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Logan Wade - 2012-13 Brisbane Bandits

Brisbane born Wade made his debut for the Minnesota Twins in 2012 with their Rookie level Gulf Coast league team. This was followed by his signing and debut with the Brisbane Bandits for the 2012-13 ABL season.

2012-13 Brisbane Bandits Logan Wade card front - © 2013 Adam East

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Boss Moanaroa - 2012-13 Sydney Blue Sox

Following his participation for New Zealand in the 2013 World Baseball Classic qualifiers where he became the Diamonblacks first ever home run hitter, Moanaroa returned to the Blue Sox for the 2012-13 ABL season, his third with the team. In 2013 he has returned to the Boston Red Sox' A level affiliate, the Greenville Drive in the South Atlantic League.

2012-13 Sydney blue Sox Boss Moanaroa card front - © 2013 Adam East

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jay Pacella - 2012-13 Perth Heat

John Jay, Jay, or JJ Pacella as he's been referred to in various places, is an American import who saw limited time with the Perth Heat during the 2012-13 ABL season. Pacella had previously played A level ball with the Houston Astros during 2008 and 2009, playing independent ball since then.

He is the son of John Pacella, a former MLB pitcher who pitched in 74 MLB games across 6 different seasons, for 5 different teams (Mets, Yankees, Twins, Orioles and Tigers) between 1977 and 1986. Jay works with his dad at the Big League Baseball School in Ohio, a dedicated baseball coaching school.

2012-13 Perth Heat Jay Pacella card front - © 2013 Adam East

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sean Guinard - 2012-13 Canberra Cavalry

Following two seasons of playing independent ball in the USA, American import Sean Guinard found himself playing for the Tuggeranong Vikings during the 2012-13 ACT Baseball League season. He was subsequently signed by the Canberra Cavalry mid way through the 2012-13 Australian Baseball League season to cover the loss of their Japanese pitching imports. Guinard had a baptism of fire into the ABL, pitching in only two games during a roadtrip to Perth.

Because of his short playing time, I was unable to get a photo of him in a home or away game uniform, but did manage to get this shot of him in training uniform. This photo was taken during a Cavalry promotional training session to Celebrate Canberra's Centenary earlier in the year.

2012-13 Canberra Cavalry Sean Guinard card front - © 2013 Adam East

Friday, June 21, 2013

Jack Frawley - 2012-13 Perth Heat

An American who spent two years (2009-10) playing in the Houston Astro's farm system, Frawley came down to Australia and played both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 ABL seasons with the Perth Heat.

In 2011 he played for several teams in the independent American Association league. In 2013 he has joined another former Perth Heat import James McOwen playing for the Heidenheim Heidekoepfe  in the German Baseball-Bundesliga.

2012-13 Perth Heat Jack Frawley card front - © 2013 Adam East

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Paul Mildren - 2012-13 Adelaide Bite

Despite his three years with the Adelaide Bite, this is my first card for Adelaide born Mildren, featuring him from the 2012-13 ABL season. Mildren spent 8 years in the American minor leagues between 2002-2009, playing for the Marlins, Royals and Pirates, getting to AAA level with the first two organisations. Mildren also played for Australia at the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics.

2012-13 Adelaide Bite Paul Mildren card front - © 2013 Adam East 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Timothy Cox - 2012-13 Sydney Blue Sox

Sydneysider Cox spent three years in the Boston Red Sox farm system between 2005 and 2007, reaching high A level before being released. In 2012-13 he mad his ABL debut, playing for the Sydney Blue Sox. Cox had previous experience playing in the Claxton Shield for the NSW Patriots - the forerunners to the Blue Sox - so I'm unsure as to why it has taken him so long to debut in the ABL.

2012-13 Sydney Blue Sox Timothy Cox card front - © 2013 Adam East

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sam Shipway - 2012-13 Perth Heat

An Australian with American heritage, Shipway debuted for the Perth Heat during the 2012-13 ABL season. He had previously spent time playing in the US for the Redlands Community College in Oklahoma. I did see reference to him being on the Heat's roster for the pre-ABL Claxton Shield days, but have been unable to verify whether he played any games with the the heat before the ABL was created.

2012-13 Perth Heat Sam Shipway card front © 2013 Adam East

Monday, June 17, 2013

MLB Marketing Fail - 2014 Opening Series Sydney

Like many other Australian baseball supporters, I was excited at the announcement that the 2014 MLB Opening Series will be held in Sydney. Sydney is a 3½ hour drive away for me, but it's a trip we do fairly regularly for major events. After several days suspense, the ticketing information was released last Thursday ... and the immediate response from a number of supporters was ... seriously???

The Australian Baseball League's Facebook banner advertising the series

The prices for tickets to each game are as follows:
CategoriesPrice Range
Gold Grandstand$369.00*
Gold Concourse$369.00*
Grandstand Outfield$69.00*

*A one-off service/delivery fee from $5.10 per transaction applies. A credit/debit card processing fee from 1.95% will apply.
Understand that baseball is a minor sport in Australia. The premier attended sports league in Australia is the Australian Football League - averaging around 35,000 per game over the last decade. The comparative summer sport, the Big Bash League (Twenty20 Cricket) averages around 14,000 people per game. By contrast, the Australian Baseball League has averaged just under about 1100 people per game across it's first three seasons.

The home games for me are at Fort Nurrabundah in Canberra, which is the smallest ABL market (It's a city of 367K people.) The five other ABL teams are all in cities of over 1 million people or larger. Melbourne has 4.2 million, whilst Sydney has 4.6 million. Whilst Canberra is the smallest market, it has some of the biggest crowds, with some games reaching the ground's capacity at just over 2000 people.

By contrast, the Sydney Blue Sox in a city 12 times the size, draw crowds slightly smaller than Canberra's. Melbourne have been struggling with their crowds and would be on average a lot smaller I believe. I don't know the exact numbers but would be surprised if they're averaging 1000 per game. Keep in mind that ABL ticket prices are reasonably cheap too - I'm generally sitting behind the home team dugout for less than $20 admission.

Here is the matching ground configuration for the games at the Sydney Cricket Ground (from the website.) to put the ticket prices into context.

So, in the end, what is the point of this post? Well, first to say - good idea to try and promote baseball by bringing out some MLB teams. However ... there are two main issues.
1. The Sydney Cricket Ground is not a baseball stadium. It is a cricket ground, which is oval in shape, which is being modified to fit in a baseball game. As you can see from the field layout, the majority of the sub$100 seats are a LONG way away from the playing field. We're not just talking at the home run fence, we're talking about starting an extra 100+ feet even further back. Meanwhile, even the seats close to home plate and the dugouts are a fair distance away from the action. Whilst baseball fans in the US may be used to this distance, Australian fans are used to being much closer to the action at dedicated sporting venues. The viewing experience is going to be quite compromised, and may lead to some negative feedback after the games I suspect from people who don't realise how far away from the action they will be. Still, it's not like there are many high capacity baseball stadiums in Australia - the largest baseball dedicated stadiums can currently only hold around 4½-5000 fans, so it's not like there are a lot of alternatives. However, this leads me to the next issue.

2. Price gouging. The ticket prices are ridiculous. Remember, the Sydney Blue Sox ABL team would be lucky to get 2000 fans at $20 each. The promoters here are expecting fans to pay $69 for extremely poor seats, or more on average, $300+ to get semi-reasonable views, for what they're used to paying $20 for. The quality of baseball may be higher, but I suspect the demand is just not going to be there. Sydney is well known in Australia for being fickle at turning out to sports events. Despite being Australia's largest city, it doesn't produce the record crowds. Melbourne is seen as the sporting capital, and is known for attending sports events. In fact, the Melbourne Cricket Ground held the record for attendance at a baseball game for over 50 years (1956 until 2008.). Around 114,000 saw an exhibition game between an Australian National Team and a US Armed Services team as an exhibition game for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.If I was the promoter, I would have been pushing for the MCG, not the SCG. I know it's going to cost a lot to bring everybody out from the US to Australia, but really, that much extra? The feeling I get, rightly or wrongly, from baseball fans in Australia is that the promoters are treating this like a rock concert and are expecting the tickets to sell out in a couple of hours, without realising that baseball struggles to get fans through the gate, and that Sydney sports fans are particularly fickle about attending games.

There appears to have been a lot of criticisms raised about the prices - the Australian Baseball League has been quick to post comments on Facebook that the prices for this series are set by the promoter and that MLB and the ABL do not have any control over them. It appears to be damage control.

Whilst this series is great in theory, I can see a lot of risk. I know a number of fans from outside Sydney who were 100% gung ho that they would be going to Sydney to attend this. Now, a number of them have said - nope, too expensive. I fear that Australian fans will not support the game at these prices, and for those that do attend, there will be negative comments after the game about the value of the viewing experience that they did get. If the players are simply dots in the distance that you can't make out, does it matter that they're MLB level dots?

I still don't know if I'll be going. I'd like to, but the game is on my wife's birthday, and she's not a baseball fan. (Loathes it in fact :)). Regardless of whether I get to it or not, I hope this series has a positive effect for the game in Australia, but with the decisions that have been made, the pricing already appears to have left a bad taste in some fan's mouths, and I fear they won't be the last once the actual games have been held  ...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Daniel McGrath - 2012-13 Melbourne Aces

Having signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2012, Melbourne 18 year old McGrath returned to the Melbourne Aces for his third ABL season in 2012-13, having made his ABL debut at age 16.

Not the best of photos with McGrath's eyes obscured, but I liked the double pair of sunglasses on the cap, and the chance to produce a card of one of the Melbourne youngsters.

2012-13 Melbourne Aces Daniel McGrath card front - © 2013 Adam East

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Warwick Saupold - 2012-13 Perth Heat

Following on from his ABL Pitcher of the Year achievements during the 2011-12 ABL season, Saupold signed with the Detroit Tigers organisation. Following a year in A level competition he returned to the Perth Heat for the 2012-13 ABL season. In 2013 the Tigers have promoted him to the Erie Seawolves of the AA level Eastern league. He doesn't seem to look happy in this shot ... maybe he doesn't like me taking his photo :)

2012-13 Perth Heat Warwick Saupold card front - © 2013 Adam East

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Daniel Lamb-Hunt - 2012-13 Brisbane Bandits

One of several New Zealanders playing in the Australian Baseball League, Lamb-Hunt has managed to play a handful of games for the Bandits for each of the ABL seasons to date. He signed with the Atlanta Braves as a youngster, but didn't end up playing in the US. Played for New Zealand in the 2013 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers.

In the Australian off-season, he has been playing in the German Baseball Bundesliga.  In 2010 and 2011 he was the Bundesliga's batting champion whilst playing for the Pulheim Gophers. He has since moved clubs and is playing with the Bonn Capitals in 2013.

The Bandits lists him as jersey number 9, however he was wearing 26 when he played against the Cavalry.
2012-13 Brisbane Bandits Daniel Lamb-Hunt card front - © 2013 Adam East

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ricky Schwarz - 2012-13 Sydney Blue Sox

Sydney youngster who signed as a 17 year old with the Minnesota Twins in 2012, he was added as a developmental player to the Sydney Blue Sox  for the 2012-13 ABL season. He did make his debut, appearing in two games, but didn't receive an At Bat in either game.

I would really like Sydney to work out to how to spell their player's names. In the Sydney Blue Sox media guide, it refers to him as both Rick Schwarz and Ricky Schwarz, whilst their website and the game-day program I have both refer to Ricky Schwartz. I've used Schwartz on the card as I was originally taking it from the game-day program, but suspect Schwarz is correct. I will probably change it before it get's printed.

Having said that, I could be completely wrong, and this could be another player that I don't recognise. I was only able to grab shots of this player with their warm-up top being worn over their uniform, so it was difficult to identify them. I'm fairly confident that it's Rick/Ricky Schwarz/Schwartz though ... but hey, if his own team can't even identify him correctly, what chance do I have ;) If somebody more familiar with Rick can confirm the ID of the player on this card, please leave me a comment, thanks.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Josh Silvi - Perth Heat 2012-13

Perth youngster Silvi had his second year with the Heat during the 2012-13 ABL season after playing two games in 2011-12. Was a member of the Australian Schoolboys Team in 2011. Silivi comes from the South Perth baseball club, along with fellow Heat pitchers, Scott Mitchinson and Warwick Saupold.

2012-13 Perth Heat Josh Silvi card front - © 2013 Adam East

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lee Mills - 2012-13 Canberra Cavalry

After playing 3 games for the Canberra Cavalry during the 2011-12 season, local boy Mills added another 2 games during the 2012-13 ABL season with Canberra. I had actually thought he was on the coaching staff, and was having to occasionally throw on the glove when down players, but a quick check of the game programs shows that he's always been listed as a player - don't know why I thought he was on the coaching staff. Still, he's young, and hopefully more game time is not far away.

2012-13 Canberra Cavalry Lee Mills card front - © 2013 Adam East

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Phil Brassington - 2012-13 Perth Heat

 ABL veteran Brassington was probably the surprise appearance of the 2012-13 ABL season in my opinion. Having played for his hometown of Canberra in the inaugural 2010-11 ABL season, Brassington returned to the Cavalry to pitch in a single game during the 2011-12 season.

Brassington was not a part of the 2012-13 Canberra Cavalry roster, but surprised many by pulling on the Perth Heat uniform to pitch in one game of relief for the Heat during their late season road trip to Canberra in January 2013. Unfortunately, his cameo didn't prove to have a happy ending with Brassington's single innings  costing five runs.

2012-13 Perth Heat Phil Brassington card front -  © 2013 Adam East

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Rhys Niit - 2012-13 Brisbane Bandits

The lanky Niit is a local Queenslander who gained a scholarship to Trinidad State Junior College in Colorado. He made it onto the Brisbane Bandits bullpen during the 2011-12 ABL season. He returned to the Bandits fro the 2012-13 ABL season, transitioning to become a starting pitcher.

2012-13 Brisbane Bandits Rhys Niit card front - © 2013 Adam East

Monday, June 3, 2013

Shane Benson - 2012-13 Sydney Blue Sox

Sydney born Benson spent three years in the Toronto Blue Jays organisation as a pitcher between 2005 and 2007, reaching low A level before being released. He pitched in a single game for the Sydney Blue Sox in the 2010-11 ABL season. He then converted over to playing third base, failing to play in the ABL the following season, before rejoining the Blue Sox for the 2012-13 ABL season.

2012-13 Sydney Blue Sox Shane Benson card front - © 2013 Adam East