Flintoff & Dunn s AUSTRALIAN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

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1 LOADED BRISBANE BANDITS CLAIM FIRST EVER ABL THREE-PEAT! In 2017/18 we witnessed the eighth season of the current Australian Baseball League. Once again six teams from major capital centres made up the competition, namely Adelaide Bite, Brisbane Bandits, Canberra Cavalry, Melbourne Aces, Perth Heat and Sydney Blue Sox. As usual these teams comprised many of the best local players with the addition of international imports from the USA and Japan mainly. As a very successful new addition to the league this year, some teams imported very high quality and experienced stars from Chinese Taipei. Following the USA s Major League Baseball decision to withdraw its financial support of the league before last season, there remains a need to continue cost saving measures and the total number of games were again minimised in order to reduce travel costs. To continue their elected path, only the Melbourne Aces hosted a contingent of Japanese professional imports for the 2018 season. The remainder of this paragraph is a repeat from the last few seasons, but my opinion remains as pertinent as ever. The Japanese players had only a modest impact before, as dictated, packing up to return home at Christmas time. 'Flintoff & Dunn' has probably said enough about the overall value of importing Japanese players into our ABL, especially given that they are unable to stay the course of the full season. Regardless of what philosophical advantage there may be for our league to have some Japanese "connection", there is sufficient evidence that the Japanese import players provide very little value to the club(s) that host them. It is more of a detraction and a distraction to replace these players mid-season. Again, it must be said that the Aces somewhat minimised their reliance on their Japanese players in 2018 and the team remained reasonably strong when they departed. Canberra, out of necessity, was once again dominated by American import players while all of the other teams had a healthy contingent of US professional imports. In fairness to the Cavs, they have seemingly made a conscious effort to increase their Australian representation. To maintain their history in the modern ABL era the Sydney Blue Sox again relied less upon import pitching. In its eighth season, the ABL stuck with the 2017 model by scheduling 40 regular season games spread over 10 weekend series. The calendar began in mid-november and each club played every other club "home and away". There were no BYE rounds for any teams this season. All series were scheduled for four games in 2017/18. As it transpired Brisbane and Canberra played one fewer regular season game than the others when a washed-out game involving these teams was not made-up during the last weekend because the result could not change the playoff standings. Again the programming of games varied slightly from city to city and week to week but, generally, they spanned from Thursday to Sunday, with Sunday being an earlier game as a getaway day. Seven inning contests were played as the matinee game on double header days. Rained-out and/or postponed games were supposed to be re-scheduled to be added to weekend programs for the return series between the same teams. The ABL decided to change from the "Top Three" post-season format to a Top Four. Under this format there were two Semi-Final series played on a 1v4 and 2v3 basis. The higher finishing teams hosted these semi-finals with the winners advancing to the Championship Series. All playoff series were best-of-three contests. This time the Championship Series involved a venue hosting choice to be made by the top seeded team. In effect, the top team had to choose whether to host the opening game of the best-of-three or whether to play Game 2 and Game 3 (if required) on away at home. Brisbane elected to play their series opener in Canberra and, after losing that one, they ultimately re-grouped to win both at home. Flintoff & Dunn s ALMANAC 22nd Edition Page 1-11

2 Unfortunately, television coverage of ABL games was again virtually non-existent during the regular season. The ABL again arranged a reasonable coverage of games throughout the season via the YouTube streaming platform. ABLtv provided live streaming coverage of at least one game on most scheduled game days which, by all reports, again attracted a decent smattering of viewers around the country. This ABL review is not intended to duplicate the detail about every game from the individual game reports that will also feature in Flintoff & Dunn s 2018 Edition book replica, but we do want to run through a brief overview of each series for historical purposes, as follows: WEEK ONE SERIES Brisbane; 16 Nov - Brisbane 8-5 Canberra 17 Nov - Brisbane 5-4 Canberra 18 Nov - Brisbane 5-2 Canb (7) 18 Nov - Washed Out WEEK TWO SERIES Canberra; 23 Nov - Canberra 5-4 Sydney 24 Nov - Canberra 4-0 Sydney 25 Nov - Canberra 2-8 Sydney Thomas Dalton Park, Wollongong 26 Nov - Canberra 15-7 Sydney WEEK THREE SERIES Adelaide; 1 Dec - Adelaide 3-18 Canberra 1 Dec - Adelaide 2-5 Canberra 2 Dec - Adelaide 4-7 Canberra 1 Dec - Adelaide 4-2 Canberra (7) WEEK FOUR SERIES Canberra; 7 Dec - Canberra 17-2 Melbourne 8 Dec - Canberra 14-2 Melbourne 9 Dec - Canberra 4-10 Melbourne 9 Dec - Canberra 7-5 Melbourne WEEK FIVE SERIES Canberra; 14 Dec - Canberra 3-5 Perth 15 Dec - Canberra 1-12 Perth 16 Dec - Canberra Perth 17 Dec - Canberra 4-3 Perth (11) WEEK SIX SERIES Sydney; 28 Dec - Sydney 9-5 Melbourne 29 Dec - Sydney 7-14 Melbourne 30 Dec - Sydney 5-6 Melbourne 31 Dec - Sydney 13-6 Melbourne Melbourne; 17 Nov - Melbourne 1-9 Perth 18 Nov - Melb 6-5 Perth (8) 18 Nov Melbourne 5-10 Perth 19 Nov - Melbourne 5-8 Perth Perth; 24 Nov - Perth 9-16 Brisbane 25 Nov - Perth 5-12 Bris (7) 25 Nov - Perth 3-13 Brisbane 26 Nov - Perth 11-6 Brisbane Melbourne; 1 Dec - Melbourne 3-0 Brisbane 2 Dec - Washed Out 3 Dec - Melbourne 2-1 Brisb (7) 3 Dec - Melbourne 3-2 Brisb (8) Brisbane; 8 Dec - Brisbane 6-2 Sydney 9 Dec - Brisbane 5-4 Syd (7) 9 Dec - Brisbane 11-5 Syd (6) 10 Dec - Brisb Syd (10) Melbourne; 15 Dec - Melbourne 4-1 Sydney 16 Dec - Melbourne 5-9 Syd (7) 16 Dec - Melbourne 1-4 Sydney 17 Dec - Melbourne 4-7 Sydney Brisbane; 29 Dec - Brisbane 11-3 Adelaide 30 Dec - Brisb 5-6 Adelaide (7) 30 Dec - Brisbane 11-2 Adelaide 31 Dec - Brisbane 3-5 Adelaide Sydney; 17 Nov - Sydney 10-1 Adelaide 18 Nov - Sydney 4-3 Adelaide (7) 18 Nov - Sydney 5-4 Adelaide 19 Nov - Sydney 4-2 Adelaide Adelaide; 23 Nov - Adelaide 6-8 Melbourne 24 Nov - Adelaide 0-6 Melbourne 25 Nov - Adelaide 6-2 Melbourne 26 Nov - Adelaide 0-1 Melbourne Sydney; 1 Dec - Sydney 4-5 Perth 2 Dec - Washed Out 3 Dec - Sydney 4-8 Perth (7) 4 Dec - Sydney 4-7 Perth (8) Perth; 8 Dec - Perth 5-6 Adelaide 9 Dec - Perth 11-5 Adelaide (7) 9 Dec - Perth 11-4 Adelaide 10 Dec - Perth 5-8 Adelaide Adelaide; 15 Dec - Adelaide 0-8 Brisbane 16 Dec - Adelaide 3-7 Brisbane (7) 16 Dec - Adelaide 6-1 Brisbane 17 Dec - Adelaide 0-5 Brisbane Perth; 29 Dec - Perth 3-4 Canberra 30 Dec - Perth 5-2 Canberra (7) 30 Dec - Perth 10-9 Canberra 31 Dec - Perth Canberra Flintoff & Dunn s ALMANAC 22nd Edition Page 1-12

3 WEEK SEVEN SERIES Melbourne; 4 Jan - Melbourne 0-2 Canberra 5 Jan - Melbourne 7-5 Canberra 6 Jan - Melbourne 3-12 Canberra 7 Jan - Melbourne 6-11 Canberra WEEK EIGHT SERIES Canberra; 11 Jan - Canberra 13-9 Adelaide 12 Jan - Canberra 6-0 Adelaide 13 Jan - Canberra Adelaide 14 Jan - Canberra 19-2 Adelaide WEEK NINE SERIES Melbourne; 18 Jan - Melbourne 7-6 Adelaide 19 Jan - Melbourne 1-8 Adelaide 20 Jan - Melbourne 4-3 Adelaide 21 Jan - Melbourne 7-5 Adelaide WEEK TEN SERIES Canberra; 25 Jan - Canberra 4-5 Brisbane 26 Jan - Canberra 5-4 Brisbane 27 Jan - Canberra 6-5 Brisbane 27 Jan - Canberra 2-12 Brisb (7) Sydney; 4 Jan - Sydney 2-7 Brisbane 5 Jan - Sydney 5-8 Brisbane 6 Jan - Sydney 1-14 Brisbane 7 Jan - Sydney 5-13 Brisbane Perth; 11 Jan - Perth 8-7 Sydney (10) 12 Jan - Perth 6-4 Sydney 13 Jan - Perth 15-6 Sydney (7) 13 Jan - Perth 10-9 Sydney 14 Jan - Perth Sydney Brisbane; 18 Jan - Brisbane 7-3 Perth 19 Jan - Brisbane 5-15 Perth 20 Jan - Brisbane 9-5 Perth (7) 20 Jan - Brisbane 0-5 Perth Adelaide; 25 Jan - Adelaide 7-9 Sydney 26 Jan - Adelaide 10-8 Sydney 27 Jan - Adelaide 3-0 Sydney (7) 27 Jan - Adelaide 8-1 Sydney Adelaide; 4 Jan - Adelaide 3-5 Perth 5 Jan - Adelaide Perth 6 Jan - Adelaide 8-6 Perth 7 Jan - Adelaide 3-5 Perth Brisbane; 11 Jan - Brisbane 23-6 Melbourne 12 Jan - Brisbane 12-5 Melbourne 13 Jan - Brisbane 5-4 Melb (7) 13 Jan - Brisbane 12-9 Melb (5) 14 Jan - Brisbane 8-15 Melbourne Sydney; 19 Jan - Sydney 1-7 Canberra 20 Jan - Sydney 0-2 Canberra (7) 20 Jan - Sydney 5-13 Canberra 21 Jan - Sydney Canberra Perth; 25 Jan - Perth 2-9 Melbourne 26 Jan - Perth 10-9 Melbourne 27 Jan - Perth 7-5 Melbourne (7) 27 Jan - Perth 3-6 Melbourne Brisbane;, Brisbane 2 Feb - Washed Out 3 Feb - Washed Out 4 Feb - Brisbane 9-8 Melbourne SEMI-FINAL SERIES Perth; 2 Feb - Perth 6-3 Canberra 3 Feb - Perth 3-6 Canberra 4 Feb - Perth 1-3 Canberra GRAND-FINAL SERIES Brisbane; 9 Feb - Canberra 5-1 Brisbane, Brisbane 10 Feb - Brisbane 12-2 Canberra 11 Feb - Brisbane 4-2 Canberra (##) = Refers to Extra Innings Number; Or less than normal innings - - (R) = Re-Scheduled Game WHAT S NEW In its eighth season of the new ABL era the 2017/18 Australian Baseball League once again saw few fundamental changes as the competition continued to imbed its culture in Australia. As mentioned earlier, there were no BYE rounds because of the ongoing cessation of the Asia Series. It seems that this once popular event has now gone the way of the dinosaur. Although many Australian baseball devotees were keen to debate the number of import players featuring in the league, it is fair to say that the spread of import players was again more evenly apportioned than in the earlier years of this league. Certainly, there has been a gradual increase in the number of import players featuring in the ABL and there are varied views on the merits of having so many foreign players limiting the opportunities for local players. Flintoff & Dunn s ALMANAC 22nd Edition Page 1-13

4 As also mentioned, the only anomaly was that Melbourne continued to host a contingent of Japanese players for the first part of the season. There were no major changes to the rules of the competition and, once again, all ABL players were required to swing wooden bats. One small variation was the mandated use of International Tie-Breaker Rules for games going beyond ten innings, whether or not time curfews were an issue. In all cases, both teams would start innings after the tenth with runners placed on first and second bases to begin the inning. Last season this was used occasionally, but this season it was used on every occasion. The purists would never be in favour of such a contrived outcome, yet it did pretty much ensure that a result would be achieved very swiftly. For the seventh time the ABL held their annual All-Star Game, for the fifth straight time at, on 21 December This time an evenly matched contest saw the World Team defeat Team Australia 6-4. The game was broadcast live streaming on ABLtv via the internet. VENUES & ATTENDANCES The home venues for ABL teams seemed to be pretty much locked-in with Adelaide playing at Adelaide Shores for the second season. As we don t expect there to be much change to these venues in coming years, we will just use this table to record the ongoing history of the clubs. TEAM HOME VENUE NAMING SPONSOR Adelaide Bite SA Power Networks Brisbane Bandits 13TOW.COM Canberra Cavalry MIT Services Melbourne Aces - Altona Jet Couriers Perth Heat Baseball Park - Thornlie alcoholthinkagain Sydney Blue Sox Blacktown Int. Sportspark Compass Global Markets From my own observation, attendances were pretty much the same as the previous seasons. Certainly there was no quantum increase or decrease that I noticed. If anything, some of the less popular dates may have suffered a marginal downturn. From my previous review I won't repeat the re-badging of stadium names based on commercial sponsors as they change all too regularly. What I will repeat is my personal dislike of having sponsor names permanently attached to the simple team names. The ABL competition continued its relationship with Major Sponsors Boral, Bendigo Bank, Virgin Australia, Bing Lee and Levi s. To once again repeat our long-held philosophical stance, 'Flintoff & Dunn' will offer the view that Australian baseball is a minority sport and a "niche market", therefore we need to be conservative and realistic about what to expect in terms of spectator support. It is understandable to aim high but patience will be necessary. We might also need to accept the notion that this might not change to any significant extent in the foreseeable future. OFFENSIVE HIGHLIGHTS Among several past and present major leaguers, Luke Hughes was again an ever-present for Perth, while Melbourne gained the considerable services of long-time former major leaguer and No.1 Draft pick Delmon Young as a marquee import for the 2018 season. Flintoff & Dunn s ALMANAC 22nd Edition Page 1-14

5 Other ex-major leaguers, Lars Anderson (Sydney) and Ryan Kalish (Canberra) also bobbed up to play during the season. This season eight players appeared in all 40 regular season games, while Perth import Jake Fraley had most at bats with 169 for the season, just one more than Adelaide import Rodrigo Ayarza and Melbourne s Darryl George. The 2018 season saw import players grabbing most of the offensive spotlight, unlike last season. In general terms it was evident that the offensive statistics climbed quite considerably in 2018, while the pitching numbers suffered accordingly. It is therefore hard to rationalise whether the quality of the pitching was down, or whether the hitters were just better? As Perth s prolific leadoff man, import Jake Fraley made the most of those at bats by obliterating the ABL s stolen base record as the most impressive statistic from this season. Fraley s 39 stolen bags easily eclipsed the previous record of 31 set by Canberra import Jon Berti in 2014 from more plate appearances. Remarkably, Jake stole those bases at the incredible rate of.231 stolen bases per at bat and the next most for this season was a distant ten! Of course, in order to set such a record, Fraley needed to be on base and he did this by virtue of a terrific.361 batting average and this obviously helped him to top the league with 50 runs scored. To cap his mighty offensive effort, Fraley also led the ABL with 115 total bases. What a body blow it was to the Heat when Fraley had to return home on the eve of the playoffs. However, if you would assume that Fraley was a lock for league MVP honours, he might have to wrestle for that with Canberra s star import Jay Baum. Baum was on the next line of betting for total bases with 110, a mark he shared with team mate David Kandilas and Brisbane s T.J. Bennett. Baum led the competition with a gaudy.439 batting average from 139 at bats, well ahead of Sydney s Taiwanese import Chih-Hsien Chiang who owned a.391 average and the leading Aussie offensive player David Kandilas with.380. Jay also led the ABL with 61 hits (shared with Fraley) and 18 doubles. Kandilas had 60 hits to his name and Jacob Younis was next for doubles with 16. To complete the case for Jay Baum, he topped the league for slugging percentage with.791, on base percentage with.484 and, naturally, a huge OPS. In 2018 ten players boasted an OPS above Chiang and Kandilas led the way for run production with 44 apiece, while Brisbane s Bash Brothers Donald Lutz and T.J. Bennett were the power men with 16 home runs each in a season where eleven players left the yard in double digit numbers. Lutz (.736) and Bennett (.735) were the only other players, along with Baum, who owned a slugging percentage above.700. The other leading on base men were Adelaide s import star Stephen Lohr (.476), Luke Hughes (.460) and Jacob Younsi (.453). Perth s former major leaguer Hughes led the league for walks with 32. For what it s worth, Canberra import Buddy Reed lashed most triples with four for the season. Having moved from Brisbane to Sydney this season, former pro Connor MacDonald showcased his power with ten jacks, but this was somewhat tempered by his league high 59 strike outs as the only man with more than fifty. During the season we did witness a record shattering slugfest in Perth when the Heat hosted the Canberra Cavalry on New Years Eve, 31 December 2017 at Thornlie. On that evening the Heat exploded for 17 runs from the first two innings and finally bullied eight Cavalry pitchers for wait for it 32 runs from 24 hits to re-write the ABL record books from both eras of the league. In the same game, Canberra also registered ten runs from 15 hits, with six errors to fall a long way short! Flintoff & Dunn s ALMANAC 22nd Edition Page 1-15

6 PITCHING HIGHLIGHTS Former major leaguers Travis Blackley (Brisbane) and Warwick Saupold (Perth) returned to ABL action this season while Melbourne had three former major leaguers throwing the ball for them. Mark Hamburger was back at the top of the Aces rotation, and veteran Virgil Vasquez pitched one outing as Melbourne s Assistant Pitching Coach. They were joined by former major league reliever Matt Marksberry who was trying to re-build a career dogged by injury. Unable to match his stellar 2017 ABL season Mark Hamburger was extremely hot and cold as No.1 starter for the Aces. On the plus side, he topped the league for innings pitched again with 67.1, had most starts (11) and pitched two superb complete games. Unfortunately, he was haunted by the long ball with a painful league high 20 home runs allowed as potent ABL offences found him more to their liking that those in The outcome was a league equal most seven losses and his inconsistency didn t bring the results that Melbourne had hoped from their 2017 anchor man. For all that, the popular big man still managed third most punch outs with 72. The most effective pitcher over the season was seasoned Canberra import Frank Gailey, even though he posted only four wins, one fewer than the league high of five that was shared by six pitchers. Gailey owned the best numbers for the important statistics of ERA (1.80), opponent on base average (.155) and WHIP (.900). The next best ERA was posted by his import team mate Lake Bachar with 2.91 and, to emphasise his value, the next best OBA was.228 and he was the only pitcher with a WHIP below Adelaide s versatile evergreen Matt Williams had most appearances on the bump with 16, followed by Perth stalwart Daniel Schmidt with 15. Canberra s ever reliable import Brian Grening was next behind Hamburger for innings pitched with Melbourne s Josh Tols and Brisbane s Ryan Bollinger were the Kings of the K with the league most 75 strike outs. Perhaps it was the strength of the offences and more blowout games that caused a relatively low number of saves, or save opportunities, this season. Perth s Cameron Lamb shared the ABL lead with Adelaide s Loek Van Mil as both notched six saves. Brisbane s prolific record holding closer of recent seasons, Ryan Searle, claimed only five saves and he could probably blame Brisbane s powerful offence for not giving him a chance to record more? Also worthy of mention were Brisbane stalwart Justin Erasmus who battled manfully as usual and certainly did not hurt himself with a league low of.107 walks per innings pitched. Adelaide was certainly boosted by the mid-season arrival of Japanese pitcher Ryo Koura who struck out hitters at the rate of 1.57 per innings pitched and he also boasted a terrific ratio of for strike outs versus walks. DEFENSIVE HIGHLIGHTS As always we must apologise for the fact that our comments are primarily based on games that we saw in person and/or some anecdotal information we received. This might unfairly result in a neglect to mention some other worthy defensive efforts. Former Perth stalwart and Gold Glove award dominator Allan de San Miguel was once again brilliant defensively for Melbourne as the premier plate minder in the land. As mentioned last season, first basemen are often neglected for their defensive prowess, yet we could not fail to mention Sydney s new first bag minder Connor MacDonald who had a fielding percentage of.995 from a near maximum 268 total chances. Flintoff & Dunn s ALMANAC 22nd Edition Page 1-16

7 I might sound hard to please, but I really didn t notice too much spectacular defence in the infield or outfield this season aside from one amazing, home run robbing, outfield catch taken above the fence by Canberra s athletic import Travis Witherspoon. Once again maybe the potency of the hitting deprived the fielders of making the spectacular plays? SEASON RESULTS After a somewhat slow start to the season and a suffering a three-game sweep loss in Melbourne, the defending Champion Brisbane Bandits steadily cranked into gear with strong enough pitching backed by intimidating offence. The Bandits really thrived in the cosy confines of their home ballpark where their power could not be contained with any regularity. In the end they emerged as the ABL s first Three-Peat Champions in either incarnation of the league. Certainly, some teams were badly disadvantaged by the departure of quality import players at various stages of the 2017/18 season, whereas the Bandits maintained a stable lineup that was stacked with both local and import talent. To repeat some text from my last game report There is no great secret about Brisbane's current reign of success in ABL competition. This season they added Tim Atherton and Chih-Sheng Lin to their 2017 Championship team, while enjoying the luxury of bringing back the big bats of imports Donald Lutz and T.J Bennett. During this era they have been able to entice the quality arms of Travis Blackley and Tim Atherton away from rival states to add to a really talented core of local talent who are at the perfect age to be impact players. Add to that a nice "top up" of import stars and it's clearly a potent formula that is very, very hard to beat! We are unaware what resources the Bandits have to retain and improve their roster in this manner, but rival clubs can only look on with jealousy and ponder how they can find a way to match them... good luck with that! For all their apparent riches, Brisbane s playoff rivals, Melbourne and Canberra, both punched hard and made sure that the Bandits had to earn a third successive title. Canberra were obviously very worthy opponents in the Championship where they forced Brisbane to come from 0-1 down to prevail in the best-of-three Grand Final. The Cavalry were somewhat inconsistent while finishing the regular season in third place, 4.0 games behind the Bandits. Their cause was not helped when quality imports Gabriel Arias, Ryan Kalish and Buddy Reed all returned home during the season. The Perth Heat bounced back quickly from a hiccup last year to finish the regular season in second position, only 2.5 games back of Brisbane. Despite a fine season where they were typically tough opposition, the Heat would be deflated to lose a home series semi-final 1-2 to Canberra. Perth are entitled to bemoan the departure of top imports Zacrey Law and Michael Brosseau during the campaign, but the real body blow came when star leadoff batter Jake Fraley had to leave right on the eve of the post season. Just check his season statistics detailed in this report! There was a long gap back to Melbourne who finished 11.5 games behind Brisbane in the standings and they had to battle for a playoff berth into the last weekend of the season. The Aces were terribly inconsistent and struggled to find reliable pitching while no fewer than 27 different arms were called upon throughout the season. The Aces also lost star import Brett Cumberland during the season, along with their Japanese players, and this obviously did not help. In the washup, they almost caused a boil over in the one game semi-final that they lost narrowly in Brisbane 8-9. After the opening two games were washed out in a Brisbane deluge, the outcome came down to a cut-throat single game and the Aces very nearly caused an upset with a free swing at making an unlikely final appearance. Flintoff & Dunn s ALMANAC 22nd Edition Page 1-17

8 The Sydney Blue Sox were out of the playoff positions for most of the season, yet they kept battling away to vie with the Aces right down to the third last game of the season. Unfortunately for them, the Adelaide Bite were never really in contention and they fell out of the playoff race well before the end of the regular season. They too lost effective import pitcher Max Beatty when they could least afford to and they were tailed off 17.5 games out of first place when the season concluded. THE AFTERMATH We are still none the wiser about ongoing viability or future of our national baseball league. One word that keeps cropping up as a potential model is the old spectre of private ownership for the teams, plus perplexing suggestions that the league should be planning expansion. Both of those suggestions will surely hasten the demise of the league as past lessons would not be heeded. Flintoff & Dunn certainly don t like to be a voice of doom or negativity, but it is also vitally important that we remain realistic and keep our knowledge of the original ABL and its history at the forefront so that fatal mistakes might be avoided. I can only repeat this text from last season s report: Now that MLB is out of the picture in terms of financially backing our Australian Baseball League, the future of the competition is obviously precariously placed. In order to continue our professional national league in this type of format, we will surely need to be very conservative about anything that requires unrealistic expenditure. The delicate balance between cost minimisation and keeping the product relevant will always be very, very tough indeed. Sponsorship will remain vitally important and this will only continue if the competition provides sufficient exposure for those sponsors. These are the ongoing challenges for those management people who are no doubt paddling hard to keep the Australian Baseball League afloat. Having been around the game and our national league(s) throughout the duration of such competitions, we know all too well how difficult this will be and there is no magic carpet that will float Australian baseball into the stratosphere of the tough Australian sporting market. Unfortunately, I suspect that one false move could be fatal for this competition, so we certainly wish everyone involved the very best of luck! By Peter Flintoff Flintoff & Dunn s ALMANAC 22nd Edition Page 1-18