After 11 years, baseball is coming back Down Under
More than a decade after the demise of the Australian Baseball
League, a topflight national competition will return – with a
financial boost from Major League Baseball.
The new six-team Australian Baseball League will begin play in
November, bankrolled by MLB in the U.S. and the Australian Baseball
The old ABL folded in 1999 amid mounting debts and was purchased
by former Milwaukee Brewers catcher David Nilsson, an Australian.
The competition created in the wake of the ABL, the International
Baseball League of Australia, folded in 2002.
The new teams, located in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide,
Perth and Canberra, will play a likely 40-game schedule.
Ben Foster, a former utility infielder and catcher with the Gold
Coast team in the old ABL, is the manager of baseball operations
for the new competition.
“There were will be two prime stakeholders, Major League
Baseball and the ABF,” Foster told The Associated Press on
Thursday. He would not confirm reports that MLB would provide 75
percent of the operating costs of the new league.
The Australian government kick-started funds for the new league
with a $400,000 grant last year.
Foster said all the teams will be essentially owned by the
league, with separate operating staff that will report directly to
the ABL. The teams, however, will be responsible for acquiring
sponsorships and run local promotions in their cities.
Peter Wermouth, who has worked for MLB International in new
business development, has moved to Australia and will be chief
executive officer for the ABL.
Foster, who declined to give any details on the expected
operating costs of the league in its first year, said the ABL will
run during the major league offseason and probably attract a wide
variety of players.
“I guess we’ll be much like other winter leagues, maybe not
comparable directly in terms of year one … maybe a little
below,” Foster said. “Overall, we’d be looking at around
Some major league players look for extra conditioning during the
offseason play in the winter leagues, and Foster hopes to see some
established stars head to Australia from time to time.
Some of those could even be native Australians.
There were eight Australian players on MLB rosters in 2009. This
year, four of 11 Australians in spring training made it to the
opening day rosters – relievers Grant Balfour of Tampa Bay Rays,
Peter Moylan of the Atlanta Braves and Brad Thomas of the Detroit
Tigers, and starting pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith of the Seattle
Last year, Foster said there were 88 Australians in the majors
and minors in the United States.
Nilsson and reliever Graeme Lloyd remain Australia’s top
Nilsson played for the Brewers from 1992 to 1999 and was an
All-Star in 1999 before retiring the same year with 105 home runs
and a .284 career batting average.
Lloyd, a left-handed reliever, played from 1993 to 2003 with
seven major league teams and won World Series rings with the New
York Yankees in 1996 and 1998.