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Australian Baseball Attracting Attention: The Latest Headlines and Statistics

Baseball continues in the Land Down Under! The Australian Baseball League is well underway, where teams are battling for playoff positioning. While the Sydney Blue Sox have been stopped in their tracks, Delmon Young thrives, and Australian baseball is flourishing. With the unexpected circumstances, the ABL has remained flexible and has announced a postseason format like any other. Tune in to learn more!

The Season Before Us

Carlos Cortes
Carlos Cortes playing for the Sydney Blue Sox

The most significant storyline surrounding this season has circled the Sydney Blue Sox’s inability to take the field. The Blue Sox were held at only two games played through the first month of the season, where the next lowest number of games played by another team was the Canberra Calvary and Perth Heat with 13 games played. Due to the coronavirus, the Blue Sox were unable to travel due to border closures. 

So far, 12 Blue Sox games have been canceled. The cancellations have hindered their playoff opportunities for the season while impacting the franchise’s ticket sales and the team’s future. The Blue Sox are finally back in action, though their season hangs in the balance.

The ABL set a rule where teams have to play at least 14 games to be eligible to make the postseason. As an exception to the rule, if a team doesn’t reach the 14 game plateau, they can still make the postseason, though, for each game short of 14, the team will accumulate a loss on their record.

The Delmon Young Show

Delmon Young batting for the Melbourne Aces
Delmon Young batting for the Melbourne Aces

Delmon Young, the first overall selection in the 2003 MLB Draft, made his major league debut on August 29, 2006, at the age of 20 for the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays. In his first full season, he was the runner-up for the American League Rookie of the Year award before succumbing to Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox. He was also in the MVP hunt in 2010 with the Minnesota Twins after hitting 21 home runs while knocking in 112 RBI and averaging .298.

After debuting with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, he later went on to play for the Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays (again) before ending his MLB career with the Baltimore Orioles. Over Young’s 10-year major league career, he had an average stat line of 16 home runs, 82 RBIs, and a .283 batting average. 

After leaving the majors, Young joined the Dominican Winter League before joining the Melbourne Aces in 2017. Young thrived in 2017 with the Aces, though he proceeded to play in the Mexican Autumn League, Mexican Spring League, and Venezuelan Winter League in 2018. Over those three leagues in 2018, he played 131 games, comparable to an MLB season of 162 games; Young was brilliant while hitting 32 home runs, 122 RBIs while averaging .309.

Delmon Young pitching for the Melbourne Aces

Young went back to the Melbourne Aces in 2019 and may have found his home in Australia as a 35-year-old. Through a complete 40-game ABL season in 2019, Young had 13 home runs, 42 RBIs, and averaged .345 while leading the Aces to a Championship while also named the 2019 Hitting Champion.

In the 2020-21 season, Young currently leads the way with 31 hits and 18 RBI through 21 games. The single-season record for batting average in an ABL season is .439, though that record may be broken this season as Delmon Young’s average currently sits at .425.

The Playoff Configuration

Sydney Blue Sox mascot
Sydney Blue Sox mascot – Credit: https://stadiumjourney.com/category/baseball/abl-australia/

The ABL recently announced that the 2020-21 season would be extended by a week, along with having an increased playing field. The league currently has six teams, five of which will make the playoffs this year, which will be decided by winning percentage. As mentioned earlier, the Sydney Blue Sox are the only team in jeopardy of not reaching 14 games played. However, they will have an opportunity to make the playoffs whether they play 14 games or accept the leagues’ penalty. 

After the regular season ends on February 7, there will be a Wild Card game on February 9 between the 4th and 5th seeded teams. When the four teams are set, there will be a double-elimination format between the remaining teams that will take place from February 12 through February 14. The Championship Series will be played on February 14 in a winner-take-all game.

The Australian Baseball Project

LA Dodgers vs Arizona Diamondbacks playing at Sydney Cricket Ground in 2014
LA Dodgers vs Arizona Diamondbacks playing at Sydney Cricket Ground in 2014 – Credit: https://www.sydney.com/sydney-life/events/aussies-swap-cricket-for-baseball-at-the-scg/

The American Association of Professional Baseball (AAPB), an independent baseball league based out of the US and Canada, and the Australian Baseball League have recently reached a partnership that will benefit both leagues in countless ways. 

Founded in 2005, The AAPB is a partner league of the MLB and is the home of college players who weren’t drafted, minor league players, and past major league players. Players have used the AAPB platform to make their way to the majors or those looking to make it back to baseball’s highest level. The ABL was founded in 2009 as a mutual partnership with Major League Baseball, which has produced tons of major league talent while also being the home to former major league players. The blend of both leagues is ideal for one another.

The ten team AAPB and six team ABL are using their union to lead to the development of baseball players from around the world. The partnership was also made to develop every facet of the game of baseball, including coaches, umpires, and baseball personnel. While reaching an agreement, the leagues will benefit from marketing and sales while also creating an effortless exchange of players. The partnership will lead to a collective effort to grow baseball’s popularity in Australia and around the world.

Australia’s Glimpse of the Future

The coronavirus has significantly impacted the 2020-21 season, where the Sydney Blue Sox have been halted for weeks, though the outlook of the remainder of the season is promising. As the Blue Sox continue to fight for playoff contention, along with an expanded postseason, we’re looking at an unconventional setup this postseason that ensures to deliver. Fans across all borders are also tuning in to see Delmon Young make history in the latter years of his career. The Australian Baseball League has been uncovering ways to make itself relevant, which is precisely what they’ve done with their relationship with the American Association of Professional Baseball. With the agreement of the ABL and AAPB, the outlook of both leagues seems bright.

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