Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Please take a Seat

To the 138 people who sent the Defensive Specialist an email inquiring after the Defensive Specialist’s health – thank you for your concern. Fortunately no harm or illness has befallen Australia’s preeminent baseball blogger. The issue that’s caused the Defensive Specialist’s absence is a rather severe case of writers block. Ordinarily the Defensive Specialist is bubbling with ideas, thoughts and comments but the longer this offseason has dragged on with nary a trace of information about the ABL available, the dryer the well of creativity has become.

The Defensive Specialist has tried everything to get the juices flowing including transcendental meditation  (no new ideas but definite changes in bowel movement), writers retreat (creativity remained low but the Defensive Specialist found a multitude of drug sources should the Defensive Specialist ever decide to become a drug addict) and hypnotherapy (zippo on the thought front but the Defensive Specialist no longer bites his fingernails).

You can see by the measures the Defensive Specialist under took that the Defensive Specialist takes educating the baseball public very seriously. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s tough to make chicken salad from chicken shit.

Just as the Defensive Specialist was considering outsourcing the writing of Deep in the Hole to a foreign country and paying for content, an email arrived at the Deep in the Hole mailbox. It wasn’t much, but it was something! This Thursday, the Defensive Specialist gets to go and choose his season ticket holders seat at the Blacktown Baseball Facility (You know the going is getting tough when the Defensive Specialist is crapping on about seat allocation). Anyway, the most exciting part of the whole process was finally learning the Defensive Specialist’s commemorative lifetime Blue Sox membership number:


The Defensive Specialist is not going to lie to you, that is exactly the number he wanted! Or 11. Anyway 383 is now the Defensive Specialist’s forever (in the Sydney Blue Sox baseball community) and may very well end up tattooed on the Defensive Specialist’s sculptured physique. If the Defensive Specialist should ever find himself desolate and in despair, expect to see that number on eBay going to the highest bidder.

Other things that the Defensive Specialist will get to do on Thursday night:

·      An informal ‘meet & greet’ with players and staff of the Sydney Blue Sox.
·      Enjoy a sausage sizzle.
·      Watch the Sydney Blue Sox train.

Although the Defensive Specialist doesn’t expect many of the big name players to be in attendance, it will be interesting to see what sort of talent is on hand this early in the season and how the team is stacking up. The Defensive Specialist aims to be back on Friday morning with a comprehensive review of the seat selection evening including a blow by blow commentary should any fisticuffs breakout during the process (after all choosing ones seat can become a contentious issue). Additional information that the Defensive Specialist hopes to glean from the evening includes uniforms, coaching staff and facilities. Stay tuned for Friday. Oh and the Defensive Specialist had better get his pair of blue socks! And a sausage.

(It’s a good thing the season is only 39 days away because writing about seat allocation may be making the Defensive Specialist dumber)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Leading the Cavalries Charge

We’re getting closer and closer to the first ABL pitch on November 6th. It’s been a long process getting franchises and the league established, but for the Canberra team things have happened in a flash. Being the last group entered into the competition, the team from the nations capital has had to work at double speed to get the operation up and running. These challenges and the perception that the Canberra franchise would be an also ran tickled the Defensive Specialists fancy and made it imperative that the General Manager, Tony Fraser sat down with the Defensive Specialist to answer a number of key questions.

Here’s what Tony had top say:

The Canberra franchise was the last team on board. What have been you’re biggest priorities this offseason in preparation for the inaugural ABL season?

Capitalising on the great work that was done during the “Let’s do it Canberra” project. A lot of people and companies pledged membership and sponsorship support at the time. Since then it’s been a matter of turning those pledges into reality. So far the response has been very strong in that regard. Our plan is to build on that and grow it further so that we can ensure we have a strong financial and supporter base in place.

There was a huge push by the Canberra baseball community to get a team in Canberra. What sort of crowd sizes are you expecting?

We have budgeted for 750 per game however, as I mentioned above, the response to our membership drive has been excellent so far, with more season ticket holders at this point in time than any other team except Sydney. I am confident we will average well in excess of our budgeted target, especially when people find out what an amazingly fun experience a Cavalry game will provide both on and off the field.

There has been talk that the new field in Canberra has the potential to be the best in Australia. How is the facility coming along and what features makes it the premier baseball field in the country?

Work at Narrabundah got underway last week and thanks to the financial support of the ACT Government will be revamped from a comparatively tired venue to a very spruced up one with new TV standard lighting also being installed. The layout of the ballpark makes it extremely fan friendly as all spectators will be able to position themselves very close to the action. Narrabundah also holds the advantage over other state team venues in that the vast majority of its support population live within a 20 minute drive of it. This year is phase one of what we expect will be an ongoing process over the next few years with plans for continued development and additional infrastructure.

What was the reasoning behind the choice of ‘Cavalry” as the team name?

The easiest way to answer this is to quote from the media release that went out on 5 August when the team name and logo were announced.

“The cavalry’s battle call is an integral part of baseball culture, and can be heard at ballparks around the world. The bugle signalling the charge has prompted support for the home team’s attack for as long as baseball has been played in front of crowds. The team moniker further reflects the ‘charge’ the Canberra community made to bring baseball to the capital. Local fans can lay claim to Canberra's inclusion as the sixth team into the League after a resoundingly successful “Lets Do It Canberra” campaign that saw nearly 5,000 baseball enthusiasts and sponsors pledge support”.

How far away are you from announcing a manager and coaching staff?

Steve Shrenk has just been announced as coach of the Canberra Cavalry for the 2010/2011 season. He is part of the Phillies organisation and is a sensational acquisition for the team with a great record as a player at Major and Minor League level and as a Coach in winning two championships since commencing his coaching career in 2002. He will be very ably supported by Brent Phelan, the ACT Academy of Sport coach will be the Assistant Coach.

Canberra’s baseball community is obviously one of the smallest in the country. How are you planning on filling out the roster?

Whilst the current baseball community in Canberra is relatively small in number compared with other parts of the country, it is extremely passionate and has already got right behind the Cavalry in terms of support and promotion. However, we are not simply going to be relying on it to fill the venue. We are targeting the broader Canberra community and believe we will be showcasing a team and overall on and off-field product in the National Capital that will attract a whole new legion of fans and new players. Season membership and individual ticket prices have been set at a level that is extremely family friendly. A family membership for 2 adults and 2 children covering all 20 home games costs just $350 if purchased before the early bird special expires on September 15. That works out at just $17.50 per game for the whole family to attend or less than $4.50 each! Season memberships can be purchased from the Cavalry website at www.canberracavalry.com.au

The baseball community in Canberra is set to grow significantly!

Have you managed to secure the biggest current names in Canberra baseball– Kimpton, Collins & Kent to be a part of the Canberra team?

These three players are definite and obvious targets of ours, however we won’t be in a position to name individual signings until the entire squad is finalised. This should be at the end of this month.

Are you able to give any indication where you will be drawing your professional players from and which MLB you will be affiliated with?

In general terms the players will include the best Canberra has to offer as well as what we expect to be a mix of other top Australian players, US, and Japanese players. You can expect an array of exceptionally exciting names and players of differing styles who Canberra will quickly take to heart!

It is widely assumed that the Cavalry will struggle to compete. Do you feel the team will be competitive or will it take time to be a contender?

I am extremely confident that the team representing the Cavalry this year will be more than simply competitive. We are not here just to make up the numbers.

What sort of publicity and promotional activities do you have lined up?

All will be revealed shortly but we have already gained the support in this regard of TV, radio and print as well as sponsor support in this regard. Things will pick up markedly once the team is announced and arrives in town

If the election is ever decided, will you have the Prime Minister to throw out the first pitch? Rumour has it Julia Gillard has a wicked slider and Tony Abbott throws like a girl.

There’s only one way to find out!

Tony, many thanks for providing an insight to the Canberra Cavalry franchise. Many within the baseball community are assuming the worst in terms of on field performance out of Canberra, so here’s hoping that the team can be as competitive on the yard as they seem prepared off it. With a new facility and the support of the local community the franchise should thrive and compete immediately.

The Defensive Specialist still hasn’t received his pale blue socks as part of the Sydney Blue Sox membership, but the good news is that on September 30th, the Defensive Specialist gets to head out to the stadium and choose his seat. Ideally that seat would be in the dugout, but if that spot isn’t available the Defensive Specialist is willing to accept offers to be seat companions. Hit the inbox if you’re interested.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cash Money

One of the true advantages of becoming a new father (aside from the opportunity to mould another person into your own likeness and drill them relentlessly until they become the greatest at whatever it is that they choose to do) is Father’s Day. It’s like a second birthday - another day when you’re the centre of attention and the adulation is ratcheted up a notch. While the Defensive Specialist always made an effort to thank his father for being a rock solid human being and an A1 dad, at no stage did the Defensive Specialist really stop to consider how challenging it must have been being a parent. The Defensive Specialist is certain that the last thing his dad wanted to do when he got home from work was immediately grab a baseball glove and play catch but he did it without complaint (ok, there was occasionally mild protestations, especially when it was 40 degrees Celsius). So on the Defensive Specialist’s first Father’s Day, the “thanks dad” comes with a greater comprehension of what it’s all about.

Anyway, enough of the schmaltzy stuff, let’s get to the Father’s Day present.

The Defensive Specialist was given a card filled with sentimental words about what a great dad he is. At the end of the card there was a joke about receiving a Bunnings voucher as a gift and then, more importantly confirmation that the Defensive Specialist had been gifted a season ticket to the Sydney Blue Sox. Unfortunately, the season ticket had not arrived in time to be placed inside the card, which could have ruined the entire day until Mrs the Defensive Specialist made blueberry pancakes for breakfast.

Being a season ticket holder may cause a spot of bother because the Defensive Specialist was fairly confident that he was on the shortlist to be Sydney’s number 1 ticket holder for the inaugural season, which would likely entail receiving free tickets. If that does in fact come off, the Defensive Specialist may have to use his season ticket as an opportunity for fans to hang out with him at games and who could think of anything better than that? – A date with the Defensive Specialist!

So what do you get for your 160 bones?
-       Premium seating
-       A personal lifetime Sydney Blue Sox membership number
-       Discounts on Blue Sox membership
-       A weekly newsletter
-       Priority access to purchase tickets to ABL playoffs

Surely they could have thrown some pale blue hosiery in there to beef it up a little? The personal lifetime Sydney Blue Sox membership number could be the weakest ‘benefit’ ever offered in sports (this isn’t just a Sydney thing, all teams seem to be offering up your chance to have your own membership number). This is like Medicare congratulating you when you receive your Medicare number. “Well done, you’ve got that number for the remainder or your living days!”

Despite the cheap dig at the weak giveaways and the disappointment over the lack of complimentary powder blue socks, the Defensive Specialist feels good to be supporting Australian baseball and can’t wait for the season opener.

Moving on from Father’s Day, the Defensive Specialist wanted to talk money. Specifically player payments in the ABL. The Defensive Specialist has had numerous reader inquiries regarding how players will be remunerated over the course of the ABL season. This was all made clearer to the Defensive Specialist recently when he stumbled across a player contract issued by the Perth Heat.

Before the Defensive Specialist launches into the figures, it would be prudent to warn readers to brace themselves for the shock they are about to receive. These boys are most certainly NOT playing for the big bucks!

The Defensive Specialist isn’t sure if all clubs are under the same payment structure but the gist of the Heat system is that the higher the level you play, the more dough you make. Payments are broken down into a payment based on series participation and by appearances (which the Defensive Specialist assumes is appearances at sponsorship or promotional events). The table below lays out the payment structure.

MLB/40 man
A/College/5yrs +
Rookie Ball/Amateur

As you can see, there aren’t many guys who’ll be enjoying a footloose and fancy-free summer on that coin. If you take the example of Luke Hughes who is currently on the Minnesota Twins 40-man roster, there is every likelihood that he’ll appear in all 10 series as well as his 10 scheduled appearances. Lets do a rough calculation on his hourly rate for the season:

Average game time (2.5 hours) X 4 games per series x 10 series = 100 hours
1 hour of pregame X 4 games per series x 10 series = 40 hours
1 hour appearance x 10 appearance = 10 hours

So we’re at 150 hours so far.

Now lets also add in 2 practices per week at 2 hours a pop. The season runs for a minimum of 10 weeks

4 x 10 = 40

Total: 190 hours

5000 / 190 = $26.5 an hour

That isn’t too bad and definitely beats working the drive through counter at McDonalds. However, when you get to the lower tiers the commitment remains similar but the payment drastically drops

4000 / 185 (5 hours less in appearances) = $21.62
2000 / 185 = $10.81
1000 / 185 = $5.40

It’s not all about the money though, look what else a player on the Perth Heat roster gets for their efforts:

·       Travel Per Diem Away Series - $35.00/game day (breakfast to be included in accommodation)
·       Travel Per Diem Away Series - $15.00/ travel day (no game)

Perth HEAT Players Provisions for Player X are as follows;
·       NEW ERA Playing Cap x 2
·       MAJESTIC Tech Fleece x 1
·       MAJESTIC Mock Turtle Neck x 1
·       MAJESTIC Performance Tee x 1
·      MIZUNO Batting Gloves x 2 (Per Position Player)

The purpose of this post isn’t to piss on the ABL parade, rather to highlight how tough the majority of professional baseball players do it and how leanly these ABL franchises are operating. If we assume that every team has 2 guys in tier 1, 6 in tier 2, 10 in tier 3 and 7 in tier 4 we’re looking at a season’s worth of salaries at around $60,000.

The Defensive Specialist could sit here all day crunching numbers, trying to determine whether the players are being short changed, if the teams are breaking even or making a boatload. If teams can average 2000 fans per game at 10 bucks a pop, they’ll be quickly on their way to making some money which should drive player salaries up in years to come. So while there are still a few hours left on this Father’s Day, jump on line and buy your old man seasons tickets, our players’ livelihoods depend upon it!