Sydney Blue Sox star Trent D’Antonio has raised the prospect of a Wollongong Australian Baseball League team as the city prepares to host the Blue Sox for the second straight year.
“There’s even an idea that possibly, if the league does expand, one of the places to have an extra team is Wollongong.” D’Antonio said.
The Wollongong resident feels that the region has the depth to host a team and is confident that this will only improve as a number of juniors progress through to the senior competition.
“At the moment there probably is [the depth required to host a team]. I think we have probably four or five guys that would be able to compete or that are competing at that stage and there’s no reason, with some of the kids that we have coming through in our junior ranks, we can’t add to that.”
However, Illawarra Baseball League president Brett Shipp declared a future ABL team a long-term prospect, stating the region doesn’t have the depth of players to host a top-flight team.
“We need our player depth to be a lot larger than what it currently is for us to be able to field a viable team in that sort of competition.” Shipp said. “We’ve probably got the numbers, but we don’t have the player depth.”
Shipp is hopeful that the game, to be played between the Blue Sox and Canberra Cavalry on November 26, will attract a large number of junior players and will highlight the future opportunities on offer should they continue with the sport.
“It’s good for our juniors to see the career path from junior baseball to youth competitions and then through to the senior league.”
Blue Sox and Wests Illawarra outfielder Alex Howe is looking forward to the opportunity to promote the sport in the region.
“Hopefully we can get those numbers to rise and continue the player development and we can start competing with the Sydney competitions again.” Howe said.
The game will be played at the relatively small Thomas Dalton Park and questions have been raised about the location after last year’s high-scoring 21-11 affair at the same venue. Howe believes a repeat of last year is possible if the elements align.
“It depends if the wind’s blowing out or not. Last year the wind was howling out and it’s not a big field, so we’ll just wait and see.”
Fred Finch Park is arguably more suited to host the game, however, Shipp revealed that the decision to play at Thomas Dalton Park was made based on its city location.
“They’re at Dalton because that’s the current initiative at Destination Wollongong. The baseball clubs had very little say, Destination Wollongong is pretty much dictating where the game’s being played.” Shipp said.
“Even though we have a Baseball Australia certified park, they want it to be held at a CBD ground.
“In saying that, with them pushing forward to hold it at Dalton Park, the Northern Pirates will benefit and baseball as a whole will benefit because of improvements to the park to make top-level baseball viable.”