EXCLUSIVE: Firm negotiations already have begun to parachute an Australian Baseball League side into Tasmania, possibly within two years.
Baseball Australia chief executive Cam Vale said that Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman has agreed in principle to a new club sharing co-tenancy between Launceston and Hobart amid initial discussions.
Vale is driving to deliver the state’s first full-time, national league club and he remains adamant Tasmania – whether in two years or more – will be a part of his vision for “regional expansion”.
That could well potentially include that the new entity host an Asian-affiliate side, with strong interest from baseball-mad markets and cashed-up clubs in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
“The Premier was certainly receptive and willing to really explore this opportunity and its links into Asia,” Vale said.
“Putting Tasmania into a national league would be of high interest. The onus really is back on Baseball Australia to come up with the business model that can work and present it back to the government in the new year.
“The Tasmanian government is quite critical to sport in the state, but it’s also going to be really important that we can unlock that deeper business support.”
Baseball Australia had first announced ambitious plans three weeks ago to expand its national competition from six to eight clubs for the 2019-2020 season.
Vale expects Tasmania to join Geelong, Wollongong, Gold Coast and probably a team from New Zealand by 2019 or in the next four years.
“We want to engage with markets, rather than sitting back and waiting, and almost taking an arrogant view that some sports take that people and places are almost begging, pleading to come into a league,” Vale said.
“We want to explore every opportunity and target the markets that suits us.
“Tasmania was always going to be a strong consideration, even though the game is not a huge part of the Tasmanian sporting landscape.
“But you also look at how you can make an impact on grassroots and one of the best ways is to draw a team into a national competition.”
Vale pointed to the most successful ABL club – Canberra Cavalry – whose market is “half the size of Tasmania” as a model for expansion.
“Tassie is perfect for an ABL team – I know it would work with the timing. Launceston has an enormous increases of population over summer and we really peak as a really summer sport,” Vale said.
“We think of new markets that will have an increase in populations, particularly leading up until Christmas and into the January period, which really suits us being a sport that comes to town and can make an impact.”
The ABL plan would also be for visiting teams to play first in Melbourne before diverting to Tasmania to split a four-game home series in Launceston and Hobart.
UTAS Stadium and North Hobart Oval have been earmarked to host games.
“I think we can represent across the north and south really successfully,” Vale said.
“Football grounds can also be converted comfortably to baseball fields, which means in the short-to-medium term, we don’t need to have baseball facilities built.”