Australian Baseball League making return
With MLB partnering, it'll be circuit's first season since 1999
Professional baseball is returning to Australia.
The Australian Baseball League -- in partnership with Major League Baseball -- will relaunch in November, giving players from Australia the chance to play the sport professionally in a league that will serve as a pipeline to the Majors and other international leagues, an MLB-issued news release announced on Thursday.
The ABL previously existed, but it disbanded after 13 years in 1999 due to a lack of funds.
Under the remade ABL, the league will run for 10 weeks, from November to January, and will start off with teams from six cities across the continent. Team names were chosen by a nationwide "Name Your Team" competition. Each of those teams will play a 40-game schedule -- consisting of two four-game series, one home and one away, against each of the other five clubs.
The top four teams at the end of the regular season will go to the playoffs, during which three best-of-five series will take place from the last week of January through the second week of February.
The league's schedule is running opposite of the baseball calendar in the Northern Hemisphere in hopes that the league can attract premier prospects from the United States, Japan, Korea and other international competitions, the release stated.
"Major League Baseball is very excited about the opportunity to join the Australian Baseball Federation in bringing professional baseball back to Australia," MLB senior vice president of international business operations Paul Archey said in a statement. "With the level of talent originating Down Under, it is only natural that a national baseball league returns, both for the players and for the fans."
MLB and Australia first got together in 2001, with the establishment of the MLB Australian Academy Program (from which 80 percent of current Australian professional players originated). The number of Australians playing professional baseball has increased by 40 percent over the past 10 years.
Baseball has been played in Australia since 1857, and the nation has sent more than 300 players to the professional ranks in the U.S., with 28 reaching the Majors.
The six teams in the new ABL are: Adelaide Bite, Brisbane Bandits, Canberra Cavalry, Melbourne Aces, Perth Heat and Sydney Blue Sox.
"This league has been made possible by the immense support and unwavering loyalty of baseball enthusiasts from all corners of Australia," said Peter Wermuth, chief executive officer of the ABL. "We look forward to our six clubs becoming community institutions, and are confident that once fans experience the excitement of the Australian Baseball League, they will be hooked."