Baseball NZ CEO Ryan Flynn says an ABL team is not far away
BASEBALL: New Zealand could soon get revenge over Australia with bat and ball for its resounding defeat to the men in green and gold in last month's World Cup final.
And while it may not come on the rectangular cricket pitch, Baseball New Zealand officials are confident it will come on a playing diamond.
The Australian Baseball League has plans to include an expansion team based in New Zealand sometime in the next few years.
The ABL and Major League Baseball - which helps to fund the ABL - have been in regular discussions with Baseball New Zealand about a team from Across the Ditch joining the six Australian teams.
Those teams are currently based in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.
The discussions have been positive, according to Baseball NZ chief executive Ryan Flynn, who recently received a checklist from the ABL on criteria for a new team.
That criteria included the grounds/venue with preferred seating configurations, including suites, plus a guarantee of sponsorship support and pre-sales for season tickets/ticket packages.
Flynn is confident he can meet most of these criteria.
He pointed to the country's continued growth in its MLB minor-league signees, college players and past success in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers.
Flynn believes a healthy line-up of sponsors - a major player being Sky Television - and plenty of public and private sector support, will soon get his bid over the line.
"(Through support) such as Sky Television, ATEED (Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development) and more, we believe there exists the broad spectrum of support to get behind a franchise in the league and make it successful right out of the gate," Flynn told APN.
"We bring a new dynamic to the league that has never existed, in the old ABL or this new incarnation of the league.
"We bring new sponsors, television and media, more funding, a larger fan base, and greater competition through an infusion of a rapidly growing player base."
But a big hurdle at this point in time is a stadium.
That's where some of the conversations have begun and ended with the MLB and ABL, due to New Zealand not having a facility capable of hosting an expansion team.
"The number-one diamond in the nation is the recently-opened McLeod Park in Te Atatu South, which is West Auckland and the home of West City Baseball Club," Flynn said.
"This site impressed MLB officials and others such as various MLB scouts and Australian Baseball officials.
"We've had very surface level discussions about this site being a stop-gap to get us to the day we have our own facility, which is hopefully not too far away into the future."
Other sites throughout Auckland, including North Harbour (QBE) Stadium, have also been considered.
Flynn added the participation growth - to support an ABL expansion team in his country - had been impressive, rising from 800 to more than 6000 in the past six years.
ABL and MLB officials confirmed to APN they are genuinely excited about the prospect of the healthy Australia-New Zealand sporting rivalry extending from the traditional popular Commonwealth sports, across to what is America's favourite pastime.
They have been pleased with the progress Baseball New Zealand has made.