Australia's best baseballers fighting for national title
1 February 2019
With baseball returning to the Olympic programme for the first time in 12 years at Tokyo 2020, the Australian Baseball League (ABL) Championship Series is providing the ideal field to showcase the nation’s top talent.
The Brisbane Bandits have taken a 1-0 lead in the best of three games in the series, after defeating hosts Perth Heat 3-2 on Thursday.
With 13 national team squad members across the two teams, fans were treated to the best of Australia’s baseball talent.
Australian baseball legend and current manager for both the Brisbane Bandits and Australian national team, David Nilsson knows what it takes to win at the highest level.
“We’re in a pretty good position - any time you earn your way into a championship final you’re playing some pretty good baseball,” he said.
“With the Bandits chasing a record fourth consecutive ABL title, there’s no extra pressure. Externally people may view it as more pressure on the team, but there’s just a comfort because we’ve been here before.”
Nilsson, who won Olympic silver at Athens 2004, is excited at the opportunity baseball’s reintroduction to the Olympic programme for Tokyo will have for the sport in Australia.
“Any athlete that plays sport in Australia wants to play in the Olympics, baseballers are no different. In the landscape of Australian sport the Olympics is a massively important thing.
“We’re just trying to become a better team - whether it’s Premier 12, Olympics, or the World Baseball Classic, our focus is on being a better team and improving on what we do.”
November’s Premier 12 tournament, which pits the top 12 ranked teams in the world against each other in a tournament style competition, offers the first chance to qualify for Tokyo 2020.
“With only 6 teams qualifying for the Olympics there’s going to be a lot of teams disappointed to not make it,” Nilsson said.
“In a tournament style event, Team 12 can be good as Team 1 on any given day. It really levels the talent out. When you’re put in a one-off tournament style event, world rankings don’t mean as much.
“From a team performance point of view, we want to show other teams around the world our capabilities.”
Returning the world’s largest sporting stage next year will provide a real boost for the game in Australia.
“Qualifying for the Olympics will help increase the notoriety and keep baseball in the spotlight, which is imperative to assist with funding for the sport.”
If the Bandits take the in Game 2 in Brisbane on Saturday, they will take a a record fourth consecutive Championship Series title.