A highly complex game played between two teams and nine players, Baseball has only one simple aim; to score the most runs in (normally) a nine innings match.
The Baseball playing field consists of an 'infield' (incorporating the 'diamond' which covers the three field bases and home base) and an 'outfield'.
The Baseball diamond must be 27.5 meters square and under the Rules, the nearest boundary must be a minimum of 76 meters from the apex of the diamond. In the United States of America the Professional Rules insist on a 99 meter minimum of grounds constructed after 1958.
The Baseball bat has a diameter of not more than seven centimeters at its thickest point and must not exceed 107 centimeters in length.
The Baseball ball, thrown from a distance of 18 meters by the 'pitcher', is made from white horse hide sewn over a sphere of rubber or cork, has a diameter of 22.9 to 23.5 centimeters and weighs 142 to 149 grams.
A 'side' scores a run when one player covers the three infield bases and safely reaches home base. 'Home run' is the term used to describe a batter hitting the ball either out of the ground and inside the foul lines, or far enough to cause a 'fielder' problems and covering the three bases and reaching home base safely. A 'grand slam homer', which counts for four runs, is scored when the 'batter' and three players already safely on base, all safely reach home base.
The United States of America is the world home of Baseball but the sport is played in over 100 countries around the world and solidly entrenched in Canada, South America and the Far East, particularly Japan, the Philippines and Korea and, of course, in Australia.
Baseball in Australia was first recorded being played in Melbourne in 1857. There were numerous attempts to start the game in Sydney between 1878 to 1888.
Enthusiasm strengthened in 1888 when American sports equipment manufacturer, A G Spalding Esq, brought two professional teams to Australia and successfully toured Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.
First overseas teams in Australia - 1888, when Spalding brought the All Americans and Chicago teams from the Unites States of America. The public viewed these matches in Melbourne and Sydney.
First controlling body - 1996, when a New South Wales Association was formed.
First national controlling body - 1926, when the Australian Baseball Council (later the Australian Baseball Federation) was formed.
First interstate championship - April 1889, when Victoria played South Australia at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground. South Australia won by two matches to one.
First overseas tour by an Australian team - 1897, when a team of players from South Australia and Victoria visited the United States of America. 26 games were played with the Australian team winning nine. While the tour was a financial failure, it inspired key baseballers on the tour to encourage the game in Adelaide and Melbourne on their return.
First official club competition - 1897, when the New South Wales Association organised a Sydney club competition between Redfern and Erskineville.
First Australian championship - 1910, in Hobart with New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania competing.
First games against American teams in Australia - 1908, when America's 'Great White Fleet' visited Sydney and Melbourne. The fleet played five games against New South Wales, Victoria and an Australian side, winning all but one of the five games.
First 'Test' games in Australia - 1928, when the University of Stanford (California, USA) managed and coached by New York Giants' pitcher Harry Waters visited New South Wales. Stanford twice defeated New South Wales and later played three 'Test' matches, two at the Sydney Showground and one at the Sydney Sports Ground, which drew a total of 40,000 spectators. Stanford won all three Tests - 13-6, 2-1 (which went to 10 innings) and 7-0.
In 1929 Multnomah Athletics Club of Portland, Oregon, also visited New South Wales and played three Tests against Australia, the second of which was at the Sydney Cricket Ground. 28,000 spectators saw Multnomah win all three Tests - 4-1, 10-4 and 10-4.
First Claxton Shield - 1934, when Norrie Claxton (1880-1951) donated a trophy to be awarded to the State winning the annual Australian championship series. Claxton, first President of South Australian Baseball League, in 1913 originally intended the team which one the trophy for three successive years to become the permanent holder. After South Australia won the first three years of competition involving presentation of the trophy, all States agreed that it become a permanent competition trophy and named it the Claxton Shield Series.
After 53 successful years of Claxton Shield competition, the Australian Baseball Federation decided in 1988 to form a national competition under the banner of the Australian Baseball League. The League initially consisted of eight teams from around Australia. It was the next step in establishing Baseball as a major sport throughout the country.
First Australian national women's squad - For the first time an Australian womens Baseball team traveled to Toronto, Canada, to play in the inaugural Women's World Baseball Series over 4 to 8 July 2001. Australia played against the best women's teams from Canada, United States of America and Japan. Australia was instrumental in initiating this event and expressed interest in hosting the 2002 Women's World Series.
HISTORIC SWITCH OF SEASONS
Between 1968 and 1973 Baseball, which until then, was a winter sport, switched to summer. The move was intended to provide spectators with more comfortable weather conditions and to avoid clashes with overseas seasons.
Baseball's premier season now falls in summer months of October to March. However, a very strong winter competition not only continues to exist but flourishes.
AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE
As a next stage in the development of Baseball in Australia, the Australian Baseball Federation established the Australian Baseball League (ABL) in 1989.
The ABL was licensed by the Australian Baseball Federation to conduct a senior national Baseball competition to determine a ranking of excellence amongst competing clubs.
Each team had representation on the ABL's Board of Directors along with representation from the Australian Baseball Federation, the largest equity holder in the League.
The League commenced its competition on 27 October 1989 in Perth at Parry Field between the Perth Heat and the Adelaide Giants. Since that time, the eight teams from around Australia slugged it out in a 42 game competition for the rights to be declared "National Champions". The season was extended to 48 games in 1991 / 92 and to 56 home and away games in 1993 / 94.
The ABL, as a competition, was recognised and sanctioned by bodies such as the International Baseball Association, the Australian Baseball Federation, the Japan Amateur Baseball Association and Major League Baseball in the United States. It developed a strong relationship with the US Major League teams by way of player participation in the League with ABL clubs forming affiliations with major league clubs in America.
The League was an outstanding success with spectator attendances jumping from an average of only 1,500 in 1989 to an average of nearly 4,000 in 1993 / 94. Some games attracted over 10,000 spectators.
The games were played at home grounds and away with the majority of these fixtures being held at night. International exhibition matches augmented the matches, the first of which was the exciting clash between Australia and Japan in January 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993.
In its ten years of operation the ABL was a competitive and (at times) a promotional success and provided a platform for developing elite players. However, ultimately the League was not viable financially.
INTERNATIONAL BASEBALL LEAGUE AUSTRALIA
Following the collapse of the Australian Baseball League there were no (previous) owners or joint venture partners in the States prepared to put up enough capital to place a State team in a tourning national league competition. The cost of accommodation and airfares are major disincentives. Continuation of a national league in its previous format was and is simply unsustainable.
Australian Baseball gook a quantum leap forward on Christmas Eve 1998 when, in a tri part arrangement, the Australian Baseball League, the Australian Baseball Federation and Nilcorp Pty Ltd signed a Heads of Agreement that effectively handed the reins of national league Baseball in Australia over to David Nilsson, forming the International Baseball League Association (IBLA).
The inaugural 2000 to 2001 IBLA season concluded on Sunday, 21 January 2001 with the internationals winning a closely fought final against the Australian team (two to one final score).
The new organisation started with high hopes of a long and successful national competition, however, with a string of setbacks, the IBLA concepts of encouraging international competition and growing a financially sustainable national league floundered. Most of its competitions such as the 2000 Claxton Shield, All Star Games and international competitions were cancelled leaving fans and players disappointed and dismayed.
Since 1999 there has been no national Baseball competition in Australia except the Claxton Shield Series held around January.
Baseball was a demonstration sport in the Olympics of 1904 in St Louis, 1912in Stockholm, 1936 in Berlin, 1952 in Helsinki, 1956 - Melbourne, 1964 in Tokyo, 1984 in Los Angeles and 1988 in Seoul.
In 1992 the Barcelona Olympics saw Baseball as a full medal sport with teams from Spain, Italy, Cuba, USA, Japan, Chinese Taipei, Nicaragua and Peuerto Rico.
The 1996 Atlanta Olympics saw Baseball expand to a 12 national tournament.
The 2000 Sydney Olympics saw the inclusion of professional Baseball players in the tournament.
AUSTRALIA'S INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS
1989 Australian Under 19 team came 3rd in the World Championship in Canada.
1991 Australian Under 19 team came 4th in the World Championship in Canada.
1991 Australian Senior team ranked in the World's top 10.
1992 Australian Under 19 team finished 4th in World Championship.
1993 Australian Under 19 team ranked 4th in the World.
1993 Australian Senior team finished 4th in the Asian Championship.
1993 Australian Senior team ranked 5th in the World.
1994 Australian Under 19 team won Silver at the Baseball Federation of Asia 'AAA' Championship.
1995 Australian Under 19 team won Bronze at the World Championship in Boston Mass.
1996 Australian Senior team placed 5th at the Atlanta Olympic Games.
1997 Australian Senior team (Mercurys) won Bronze at the Intercontinental Cup in Spain.
1997 Australian Under 17 team (Colts) won Bronze at the 'AA' World Championship in Taiwan.
1998 Australian Under 17 team (Colts) placed 4th at the 'AA' World Championship in Fairview Heights, Illinois.
1998 Australian Senior team (Mercurys) won Silver at the Haarlem Baseball Week Tournament in Holland - beaten by Cuba.
1999 Australian Provincial team placed 1st at the Prague Tournament.
1999 Australian Senior team won Gold at the Intercontinental Cup.
2000 Australian Senior team placed 7th at the Sydney Olympic Games.
2001 Australia's first national Women's squad placed 3rd at the Women's World Series in Canada.
2001 Australian Under 17 team placed 3rd at the World Championship in Mexico.
2001 Australian Under 12 team placed 3rd at the Cal Ripken World Series.
2001 Australian Under 19 team placed 3rd in the Asian Championship in Taiwan.
In the 1950s the Australian Baseball Federation, through its affiliates, introduced Tee Ball to Australia.
Tee Ball is a simple modified version of Baseball for young players who hit the ball off a tee. Both boys and girls in the 6 to 10 age group play Tee Ball.
In the mid 1980s Tee Ball became part of the Australian Sports Commission Aussie Sports Program.
Tee Ball is now the most popular and most played modified junior sport played in Australia.
2001 saw the introduction of Yard Ball, a four on four Baseball game designed to provide fans of all abilities an opportunity to play tournament form Baseball on reduced sized fields.
Each event consists of a replica stadium field and three to five auxiliary fields. The site provides a Baseball atmosphere with music, signage, Baseball interactives, stadium bleachers and much more.
Yard Ball originated in the Unites States in 1998 and tours 15 Major League Baseball markets and additional special event locations. Major League Baseball International's first Yard Ball pilot program was conducted in January 2001 in Melbourne and Brisbane and met with huge success.
THE AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL FEDERATION
The Australian Baseball Federation is the controlling body in Australia for all levels of Baseball throughout the country.
The Australian Baseball Federation is the sole representative of Baseball in Australia and is recognised by:
- National Government;
- the International Baseball Federation;
- the International Olympic Committee;
- the Australian Olympic Committee; and
- Major League Baseball International Partners.
The Australian Baseball Federation consists of the Baseball Associations from seven Australian States and Territories. The seven Baseball Associations are:
- Baseball ACT (Australian Capital Territory Baseball Association);
- Baseball NSW (New South Wales Baseball League);
- Baseball Northern Territory Inc;
- Baseball Queensland Inc;
- Baseball South Australia (South Australian Baseball League);
- Baseball Victoria (Victorian Baseball Association); and
- Baseball Western Australia (Baseball WA).
Each of the seven State Baseball Associations are responsible for the administration and development of Baseball within their respective State from junior up to State compeition levels.
The Australian Baseball Federation, both in its own right and in partnership with its seven affiliated State Associations, coordinates, directs and assists in the development of Baseball throughout Australia from grassroots through to professional development and progession.
The primary focus of the Australian Baseball Federation is:
- The development of Baseball at all levels of the sport throughout Australia;
- national elite development; and
- international liaison and representation of Australian Baseball at all international forums.
The Australian Baseball Federation's mission is "to provide national leadership and a national framework for harnessing the energies of the many baseball people and organisations throughout Australia with the aim of building the business of baseball for the benefit of all - building the business of baseball together!"