All posts by Ben Newton

Rediscovering Baseball’s Greatest Asset

Hobbies and interests are as old as time, most often seen as a way to find escapism from the mundanity of a life that doesn’t always live up to its promise. But what is it that helps one choose a hobby or interest? Is it mere luck? Chance and timing? And once it is found, is it ever possible to truly understand why you like something?

Or maybe it captures a glimpse of the way you wish the world to be.

Some years ago I had such a glimpse into the world of baseball.

For someone born and raised in suburban Australia it’s not common to have had much exposure to the game. And as someone not built for the rougher side of life, sometimes sport can feel alienating. Most of our western cultures equate sport and masculinity with machismo ideals. Anything less is soft, and any combination of entertainment and sport should be fought against lest purity of the “battle” is diluted.

So when I stumbled across a world where a sort of silliness was not only tolerated but celebrated, I had to know more.

It was a rebrand article in the blog Brand New, about the Reading Fightin’ Phils (subscription required). I learned that this was how Minor League Baseball was – strange names, and even stranger entertainment. I learned about the team’s main mascot, the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor, whose role was to run about the stadium in a costume that made him look like a hot dog vendor riding a turkey, throwing as many hot dogs to the crowd as possible. I learned they’d created kid-sized versions of the costume, and that children in the community bought them to use for Halloween.

The Crazy Hot Dog Vendor. Photography by John A. Secoges, Secoges Photographics

What I learned in those early glimpses wasn’t about athleticism, or about riches or wealth or a sense of ‘cool’ or anything like that. It was a discovery of the charms of community, of something not aspirational but inspirational.

Every sport, I think, can be boiled down to some basic strengths. Football (soccer) is passion, basketball has flair, gridiron is the distilled experience of american capitalism.

Baseball has charm.

Regardless of the country it’s played in, baseball is a game that is played in front of you while you eat hot dogs or other basic food and drink beers with friends and family, sharing laughs and making memories. It’s a community focused less on the result of the game and more about “being”. It is long, warm evenings, where fun and relaxation are valued higher than each play on the field. It feels like a summer barbecue.

Charm isn’t as marketable as passion or flair, and baseball sure struggles when people compare it to others for things like game length. However these discussions miss the point. Show me someone that has just switched off for 4 hours and focused on relaxing with friends, family and community at a ballgame, and I’ll bet the house they don’t regret it.

I often tell newly formed acquaintances that I’m into baseball, one of the first things that people tell me is that they went to a Major League game and had a great time. They didn’t understand the game, but it was a fun experience sitting and taking it all in.

Recent events have shown me that Americans are rediscovering the charm of baseball. Minor League Baseball has had very stable attendance figures for quite some time, during a time when most other U.S. sports have seen declines in overall attendance. The rise of independent or collegiate baseball is a sign that locals love the game and want it to align with what the game is all about (see: the Savannah Bananas). It’s about local flavour, affordability and inclusion, not profit-at-all-costs. Finally there is the rise of the Sandlot Revolution, a U.S. nation-wide revival of community driven social baseball pioneered by Jack Sanders and the Texas Playboys.

Jack Sanders pitching for the Texas Playboys, the originators of the Sandlot Revolution. Photo: Unknown.

Like many baseball fiends, I was dismayed at the recent removal of 40 minor league teams from the official system. I now believe that it could be a positive change for the long term heart of the game, as franchises freed from control get the chance to reconnect with their towns and cities.

Post-COVID, my hope for the game is that major league franchise owners take their grip off the wheels of profit and loss and start focusing on long-term growth. I hope they let the world know that the best way to spend time with family, first dates and friends is at the game. However it only happens when tickets are cheaper and beers and food are easy to get. The experience shouldn’t be designed by an MBA who wants to suck all the money out of a captive audience for fear of a poor balance sheet.

In Australia, my hope for the growth of the game is that supporters and those guiding the Australian Baseball League take the focus off winning and focus on enjoying and on capturing the essence of a relaxed summer on the deck. We know what it is to spend five days ‘watching’ a Test Match. Regardless of whether we feel the sport is ‘American’ (often used in a negative sense), the desire to switch off is near-universal. It’s time to find the charm.

Basebolf, Dartball, Retro Bowl and more: the craziest baseball-related things I came up with in 2020

It’s time to look back at all the fun and silly things I tried during the long off-season. Here are the highlights, including some of the things I learned along the way.


When COVID restrictions cruelled my baseball club’s winter baseball season, there was some appetite for players to still be able to meet up to play catch or do something more competitive.

This lead to the creation of Basebolf, a combination of golf and baseball that can be played practically anywhere.

After putting together the creative, the website and the rules, I created some example courses based at different baseball fields in South-East Melbourne and posted them on Basebolf social media accounts.

While the players who tested it out thought it was fun, we couldn’t get much buy-in as players wanted something as close to an actual game of baseball (or baseball training) as possible. It also felt like it was going against the spirit of the COVID restrictions in Victoria, so it fell away.

I think it still has potential as an off-season activity, or as an activity for those in need of a low-impact sport like golf, but without the price tag or difficulty of golf. Baseball clubs are constantly under pressure to use their grounds more, and this is an activity that (to my understanding) should require very minimal volunteer management.

Retro Bowl live stream

With Victoria’s COVID restrictions becoming progressively tighter, we started focusing on virtual engagement and content, which led me to thinking of a Ducks x Retro Bowl crossover.

Retro Bowl is an 8-bit style Gridiron app that has gained some popularity for its combination of graphic charm and depth of gameplay. We changed all the teams in the NFL to Victorian baseball teams and colours, and then played as the Ducks. After creating a run-sheet with sponsor callouts and competition ideas, we live streamed games with commentary. I also created a graphic style and a couple of videos promoting the streams.

With a young family I had to do the streaming at night at home. This meant streaming from within our car to dampen the noise. To add to this, getting the tech right was a bit tricky, with a combination of mobile screen sharing being combined with microphone audio into a Facebook live stream. The first episode showed promise, but after episode two I found the game itself to be too repetitive and quick for a meaningful stream (from the audience’s perspective). Stopped after episode 2.


A screenshot from a basic rules document I put together which shows a bit about how to put an at-bat together.

Another crossover mini-sport, this time combining Darts and Baseball. This was a fun, interactive opportunity for players to play at home against others over Zoom. The basic idea is as follows: Player 1 throws a dart at the board, which is the pitch location. Player 2 then throws their dart which is their swing location, and if they are close to the pitch location, then they throw another dart to indicate the power level of their hit. Depending on the outcome of the ‘power level dart’, Player 1 may be allowed to throw another dart to indicate what their fielders did. Scoring was done via Gamechanger.

Dartball only reached the playtesting stage, however it seemed like it had potential as a clubhouse game for winter or late nights.

Pinball League

The last of our initiatives was the Pinball League. We created a four-week league based on the high scores of free phone-based pinball games with Uber Eats and Sporting Globe vouchers as prizes. At this stage the 5km radius restriction was in place, so The Uber Eats voucher was important to widen the geographic sphere of potential engagement.

The Pinball League generated a little bit of engagement outside of the playing group, and even some of the players who weren’t that keen ended up spending a huge amount of time trying to post the highest score for the week. The numbers fell away towards the end as it became clear there were a few standout pinballers (or people who had more time on their hands) in the league.

It was a little tricky to get the players to the right apps, as most only include one table in their app.

Out of all the initiatives, the two that I was proudest of were Basebolf and the Pinball League. While Basebolf didn’t really take off, it was the creation of a new mini-sport and I was happy with what I put together.

On top of all that, I was able to find the time to create v3 of the Mordy Ducks website and redesign things like the uniforms and more.

The main things I took from all this are to keep trying new things and to take notes about why things didn’t work. But it’s important to stay resilient and realistic – people will forget those little things that didn’t resonate, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

The New Australian Sports Code War: Revamps, Rebrands, Reinvigorations

Originally published at Digital Sports Labs.

The past 20–25 years have seen a huge amount of upheaval in the world, with the pace of change seemingly so fast that most of us struggle to keep up with it all. The upheaval has affected every pillar of society and the pillar of sport hasn’t been immune.

While Australian sport has had its changes and revolutions over the past decades, you’d be hard pressed to say there has ever been such a concentration of change than from what we’ve seen in the past 7–8 years. Where the AFL, NRL, Cricket, V8s, F1s, Super Rugby, tennis and horse racing previously dominated (and generally still do), the landscape has become a lot more fractured and consumers have been flooded with choice in the entertainment sphere, and those choices are no longer defined by borders.

Take cricket for example: spurred on by the origin of Twenty20 in 2003, cricket fans now have the choice of watching International Twenty20, International One Day Internationals, International Test Matches, along with the domestic test, one-day and Twenty20 competitions. The quickest growth among those has been seen in the Big Bash League, launched in 2011.

Or take a look at the AFL and AFL clubs. Since 2010 there have been 2 new clubs introduced, changes to the pre-season competition, games in New Zealand and China, the launch of AFLW and now AFLX, and now we’re seeing clubs investing in esports, netball and more. That’s a breathtaking amount of change, and it isn’t even exhaustive! To add to all that the age of the rebrand is on us, with only 4 clubs represented by logos from before 2010.

Take a look at this non-exhaustive list of new or updated sporting properties and promotions from 2003 to the present, and you’ll see where the list gathers pace:

2003: First Twenty20 game in England (2005 first game in Australia)
2005: A-League launch
2008: W-League launch
2010: ABL (baseball) relaunch
2011: BBL launch
2011: Super Rugby (rebranded from Super 14)
2011: Gold Coast enters the AFL
2012: GWS enter the AFL
2013: AFL game in New Zealand
2014: AFL NAB Cup change to NAB Challenge
2014: NRL Auckland Nines launched (currently suspended due to workload from the recent Rugby League World Cup)
2015: Fast4 Tennis
2015: NBL rebrand
2016: Netball change from ANZ Championship to Suncorp Super Netball, with AFL and NRL clubs investing in a total of 3 teams (8 total)
2017: The Everest runs for the first time
2017: Brisbane Global Rugby Tens
2017: Port Adelaide and Gold Coast play in China
2017: AFLW launched
2017: AFL NAB Cup changes brand and structure to JLT Community Series
2017: AFL Clubs Adelaide and Essendon invest in esports team licenses
2018: AFLX launched
2018: E-League launched
2018: NRLW launching

The sheer amount of change is staggering.

It begs the question, what societal trends are driving the change, and will we see a trend of diminishing returns on the next few initiatives in coming years? Will customers grow tired of administrators trying to suck the last dollar out of their wallets, and grow cynical over the next ‘new big thing’?

Before our interviewed experts touch on the sustainability of this era, let’s have a look at some of the possible drivers for this new code war:

Are administrators pursuing a diversification strategy, with the ability to own relatively close verticals that help support the main pursuit? Or is the diversification a more concerted move away from pokies?

Are they seeking new audiences, such as those in Asia, New Zealand, or domestic audiences such as soccer or video gaming fans? Do they feel like the Aussie sports fan audience is now over-saturated and fully catered to?

Is it a matter of capturing the opportunity of low cost, digital broadcasting and social media advertising?

Is there an influx of smarter, more commercially savvy sports management professionals? Or is it the influence of wealthy individuals wanting to prove themselves in the cutthroat world of sports management?

Has there been a genuine increase in awareness of gender equality issues? Are administrators trying to tap into that?

Do the stalwart sports feel self-conscious, feeling that they’re losing their relevance with the oft-maligned Millennial Generation and those in Generation Z?

Nine of these competitions didn’t exist prior to 2010, while Super Rugby, Suncorp Super Netball and the NBL have all experienced significant change in that time.

When speaking to the media about the recent launch of the FFA’s E-League, Luke Bould, head of commercial, digital and marketing gave some insight, saying “We’re being entrepreneurial, we’re taking a risk. We have to be there and for us it’s a strategic advantage, there’s a million plus people playing this game and we don’t have enough fans of the A-League. We can try and influence them through this media,”.

Regarding AFLX, the AFL’s game development manager Andrew Dillon went on record to say “AFLX has been created to provide us with the options to play a form of the game in places where oval grounds are limited and to showcase our game internationally at a point in the future,” Dillon said.

I asked a number of prominent Australian sport business professionals on their thoughts on what’s driving the change, where they see it all going, and about where they’d hypothetically invest in (given the chance), given the choice of the new or revamped sporting properties launched in the last few years.

Sean Callanan — Sports Geek

Triggered by the Big Bash, we’re seeing a lot of new sports that are made for the fast-casual fan. They’re aiming for a shallower — but more entertaining — connection with new markets, be they kids and families or migrants or in the instance of AFLX, talking to sports fans in Sydney and Brisbane. In the case of the Rugby Sevens, they’re playing that in Hong Kong which opens up those international markets.

There’s also a play for greater TV rights as has been the case for decades, and this is the logical conclusion where sports are created to fit into the primetime slot. As the TV channels battle for content with Netflix and co, they’re able to use their existing national, live-sport-viewing brand equity to grab those audiences.

As the Big Bash are a little bit ahead of the game with this trend, they’re doing a great job. However with all of these products there is absolutely the potential downside of having too much product, and administrators also need to keep an eye out for when the shortened version starts to become more popular than the original product. It will be interesting to see how the newest cricket rights deal is influenced by the Big Bash, which provides a lot more advertising opportunities during prime time.

In the end it comes down to new products to serve new or underserved audiences which can help drive better TV rights deals.

Kieron Turner — Digital Engagement Manager, Adelaide FC

With content available at your fingertips in today’s modern society, consumers expect their appetites to be fed instantly. Otherwise they’ll move onto the next option just as quickly.

Fans are no longer forced to watch the AFL on a Friday night simply because there’s no other live sport on free-to-air television. They can consume just about any sport, from any country, at any time with the power of the internet and smartphones.

Factor in other entertainment options like Netflix and YouTube, and there are millions of things competing for a person’s time.

With lucrative broadcast rights deals under threat as more people cut the cord, it’s easy to see why the Big Bash League and AFLX have emerged as ‘instant entertainment’ options in a bid to attract new fans and expand audiences beyond Australia.

It also helps the push for corporate sponsorship dollars, in an industry that has evolved significantly to be far more results-driven in recent times.

Traditional marketing has also shifted, particularly when it comes to attracting millennials. Sports business professionals need to find new ways to communicate with their future fans, perhaps evidenced by the growing investment in esports by savvy sporting organisations.

The outlook is pretty simple: anyone standing still will be left behind. You need to be moving forward, at rapid pace, just to keep up.

Andrew Walton – CEO, InteractSport

There has been a change in attitudes within sporting entities to embrace diverse strategic thinking with an appetite driven from observing and investigating international trends.

There is the desire to be different, and to lead change within their own environment, to avoid the view that standing still is complacency.

Societally, the unwired generation is armed with a device of preference that demands and expects unhindered connectivity with ability to engage and share the experience.

Touch points of appeal to engage interest are extended to wherever imagination can flow eg: flashing bails, zooper dooper replays, apps, bringing the audience closer to the action, players getting better at direct engagement with fans post match and more.

As a result, a new natural order will start to take shape after the experimentation, research and development has settled.

Traditional fans will accept diverse and alternative options more readily as new talent emerges that specialises in new formats eg: Darcy Short in the BBL, Charlotte Caslick in Rugby 7’s.

The appeal with some of the new sporting properties gives an opening where anybody, athlete on field or back room, can come from anywhere as career options broaden.

Clubs and teams will become 12 month trading operations that will improve levels of business services, operations and professionalism in the digital space, creating a stability of cash flow to allow better resources and opportunities for strategic thinking and planning.

I’d invest heavily into the stable, loyal core of fans to bring them fully along. Rather than confuse and disenfranchise, entities need to work harder to engage and allow their devotion to influence and attract new fans. I’d also invest in a sport or team with international appeal where fans have alike tribal behaviours.

Nick Ristovic — Customer Engagement Manager, Melbourne Racing Club

When looking at modern sporting game format trends, there is a clear shift to producing shorter format events which engage patrons actively throughout the duration of the game.

The growth of 20/20 cricket, reinvigoration of the NBL competition and a recent launch into AFLX highlight the need for different sporting codes to create shorter events which are family friendly and ultimately provide more excitement for paying patrons.

Fans are more than ever looking for an option which provides great entertainment. We are competing in an ever more competitive landscape which has more options for potential fans than ever before.

Like test cricket, the industry I currently work in (Horse Racing) presents a similar challenge… how do we engage our patrons for a nine-hour format when live racing makes up 20–30 minutes of the days action?

The profile of racing avids has traditionally trended towards older audiences with younger patrons only attending during the Spring Racing Carnival. The challenge we are facing is to build out our race day format to provide entertainment in between racing to engage new non-racing avid audiences which are traditionally younger markets.

We are exploring better use of our big screen technology, crowd engagement through live competitions and shorter format twilight race meetings to bring new fans to our sport.

With research indicating that we are working longer hours than ever before, it’s this share of our ever reducing discretionary/social time that all sports are desperately trying to monopolise.

How to Start a New Baseball Club: The Grassroots Sport Experience You Never Hear About (Part Two)

After part one, I wanted to ask a few extra questions on top as a follow up. Originally I planned to head down to meet Tim (now the Miner’s secretary) at the club’s first home match at their home ground, however as you’ll read things haven’t been going so smoothly for the club on that subject!

When you first decided you wanted to start the club, how many people did you approach to help? What was the feedback from those people you approached?
At first I did it all alone: if it failed, no one else would have been let down. Once I had a field placing and council approval, I then had a come and try day in which I also advertised the requirement for committee members and managed to achieve a committee to back me up on things I needed help with. The feedback was very positive as they all wanted this club on the field. As it turns out, now we are halfway through the season and have had massive dramas with the cricket club we were trying to share a ground with, and subsequently we have had to move down the road to a new field. It’s meant that the whole committee has had to do a lot of extra work to get funding applications updated so we can hopefully get our field sorted. At this stage all our home games will be getting played at another club’s ground.

Once you had your core support group, what issues did that raise? Was it hard to keep everyone focused on the goal?
I really have had no dramas or issues with the core group of committee or players. Everyone is focused on getting bigger and better while understanding it is going to take time. Our first goal was try and get a win (which we achieved in about round 5) but now it has flicked to getting more consistency in every game we play.

What did you do at your first meeting?
First meeting was at that stage working out numbers for the first game whilst trying to get a juniors program up and running. Also trying to get our field sorted out with the cricket club which has since fallen over. We are now working with a cricket club about 100m away from our original site, and the reaction couldn’t be any more different: they’re very excited at the opportunity to have us at their site. We just have to keep at it and the hard work is almost done.

How did you come up with the name for the club? What were some of the names left on the reject pile?
I really wanted a name that may mean something to locals from the South Gippsland area. Most would know that coal mining is big in the region, so the Miners seemed like a good fit. There is a cricket club with the same name in the region, but I think our branding will set us apart. Some of the names scrapped were:


My fiancee made up mock uniforms to see how they would look on a uniform and how it sounded but none of them seemed to work. I think we made the right decision with The Miners. We recently heard from a guy who had grown up in the area but was now living in Perth and he bought a few playing tops and caps just because he loved the name and logo of the club. That to me is proof that it’s a good name that fits with the character of the area.

What paperwork is required to start a club? Which of those things is the most difficult to complete?
The main document required to be a club is your incorporation, which you cannot obtain without the basic requirement of a committee, President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Once they are all in place, have a meeting and get document signed asap as it can take up to 5 weeks to go through. All the paperwork is pretty easy but can be time consuming. There are companies around that can help (see part one) and they are the best to talk to as they know the exact process you need to adhere to. Once they are on the case it’s really easy.

The main thing I take away from this whole experience is to fight for your club. I have been fighting for this club for 18 months now and got the wind knocked out of my sails by the cricket club making it so difficult for us. However it has lead us to try another avenue which has now paid off – but not without a lot of extra work. I would recommend that you make sure you try and have a good relationship with any sharing club, and get a proper understanding of what you require of the site as far as clubrooms go, and then clarity about what works will be done on the ground. For instance we hit a wall because the cricket club didn’t want to give us access to their kitchen to sell hot food. Their opinion was that we would have to drag a BBQ from the balcony 100m across a wet oval and cook it there.

When we went to primary school with this and they were sided with us, but the cricket club made it that hard to try and rectify it that the fight just stopped being worth it. We felt things started getting more unfair, especially after a request for $1000 a week in hire costs so we started looking elsewhere. As I said earlier, fight for what’s right but don’t give up if one door closes. Keep an open mind and have a backup plan ready to activate if required. I had approached this new cricket club right back at the start and asked them about the possibility of having ground at their facility, so they knew of the possibility of us being there and weren’t shocked when I rang.

Good luck to anyone starting a club!


Well that’s the second and last one in this series – I’ll get an update about the Miners at the end of their first season to see how things are progressing. If you’ve got any questions you’d like to ask Tim leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure he knows to get back to you.

How to Start a New Baseball Club: The Grassroots Sport Experience You Never Hear About (Part One)

Among all the stories and advice and blogs you read about running a local sports club,  about running meetings and securing sponsorship, and about managing volunteers and good social policies, there’s a notable lack of information about one very important issue for the growth of any sport:

How to start a new club

It’s not for the faint of heart, and depending on the sport you may not get the level of support you’d expect from a state body. While I’m on a committee of a local baseball club, the club has been around since 1949. I’ve always been curious about what it would take to create a sports club – I mean it’s hard enough to grow a local club as it is!

I recently interviewed Tim Katz via email a few weeks ago. Tim has done a huge amount of work to start a baseball club. The South Gippsland Miners have now just played their first game in the Latrobe Valley Baseball Association however the interview took place about a fortnight before that. My questions are in bold, his responses come after that.

What’s your background in sport and baseball? Are you or have you been a club president before?

I started my baseball journey at the Moorabbin Baseball Club when I was around 11 years old. I have never been a club president before in any club or capacity but did serve about 2-3 seasons on committee at Moorabbin.

What were the main decisions in thinking that you’d like to start the baseball club?

When I did some work in the region I noticed that when you live in a country town you only have the choice of football, cricket, netball and soccer. I love AFL and respect all sports but in winter Baseball can be a great option for everyone, especially if they aren’t keen on the other sports. Also I obviously love the game and have made many friendships over the years through baseball, and it’s relatively low impact so anyone can play.

How many people did you have to support you? Did it affect your family life?

With my ups and downs of trying to get the team on the park, my fiancee Ash has been a constant support, my family has helped wherever possible, and my brothers even offered to play where and when they could. The newly formed committee have been amazing in the way they have got behind the club; really pushing to get us up and going.

The enthusiasm of all the players that have turned up thus far inspire me to keep focused to make this happen for them. It has been a struggle at times with my young family, especially when getting through the first 12 months, but now with a great committee I’m able to spend more time with my family, and for that I’m really grateful.

Were you able to get any advice about starting the club from anyone else with experience?

It’s really very hard to get advice on starting a new club. A lot of clubs have been around for such a long time so the founders are generally very hard to get a hold of. When it comes down to it, I’ve just had to grit my teeth and hold on.

What first steps did you have to take once you decided to start the club?

I spoke to my family to make them aware that it would be a bumpy ride ahead. After that the most important step was speaking to council to find a home, which is a very time consuming step going from ground to ground looking for a good option. Then I approached the LVBA (Latrobe Valley Baseball Association) to see what their thoughts were. Once I had all that figured out the hard work began.

Run us through the decision process and the opportunities available for finding a ground to play on.

In looking for a home I really wanted to pick something with exposure to public view from a main road. This is important for sponsors to get good exposure and to give them bang for their buck. We are setting up in a Primary School, which will also give me exposure directly to juniors which is a huge factor in getting a new club going. Once the field is set up and people can see us playing and making things happen in the region, the players will come.

To get pointed in the right direction I’d really encourage others to work with their local council to make it happen, and also with any other clubs that you may be sharing with. There will be backlash and knee-jerk reactions but stand tough and try to work it out. Even if you have to organise meetings with everyone involved in getting the team in the location, do whatever you have to do. The meeting may need to include the school council, other club committees, council members and your own committee. With everyone at the same meeting, you’re all on the same page and you don’t have Chinese whispers going on.

At what stage did you go public with the news of the new club? What was the reaction?

I put out a media release to local papers once I had the site sorted and gained approval from council, school council, committee and the cricket club committee’s approval. The reaction was very positive from most people. We got a lot of interest, however it can be  very hard to reassure people that we’re not a fly-by-night club, especially without fencing and a field. In the end we will be fielding at least 1 senior mens team and working on an under 13’s team.

What are the most boring parts of the set-up?

All the paperwork and waiting. It seems to never end but if you keep your eye on the prize you’ll be fine.

What excited you the most about the set-up?

Seeing all the excitement and enthusiasm from new comers to the game. There’s definitely a hunger for new sporting options, even in small towns.

Where did you get your first external support (outside of your core group)?

Gene Parini from GippSport has been a godsend! He has been in contact with me throughout the whole process with info on contacts and how to go about setting up the club. Ian Murphy from South Gippsland Shire has been instrumental as well. He was always there to chat with about how things were going and with helpful ideas around processes. More recently, Penny from the grants department within council has been a wealth of knowledge for our secretary, helping us with grant applications and with advice on the best way to move forward. For anyone interested there is also company called “Regional Sport Victoria” whom are a government funded agency who will help you with getting an idea of what it will take and where to start.

Part of Baseball Victoria’s mandate is to grow the game in our state. What has been your experience with the state body? Also how supportive was the LVBA in helping you get set up?

Baseball Victoria’s role has been more behind the scenes, which means they’ve given an endorsement of what we’re doing (as opposed to financial assistance). While I don’t want to offend anyone, I would say the most disappointing thing about the baseball bodies is lack of funding/financial support. I can understand it’s hard to get funding from higher governing bodies, but I would love to see a more sustainable way of having more finances available to new clubs.

In saying that, the LVBA have been a great help in offering us whatever they can to help get us on the park, even offering some financial aid and have always been available to answer my questions. They’re always ringing just to see how we are going and to see if they can help which has been encouraging. All in all it’s a challenge, but if you love the game it will be all worth it when the first pitch is thrown!

What are some of the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome?

The hardest and most frustrating hurdle is around commitment. I had a few players who showed a lot of enthusiasm earlier on, but pulled out very close to the start of the season which is never ideal. Another is the cost involved in the sport. It’s daunting for first time parents with kids to see fees, uniform, equipment all adding up, which adds to the argument for funding.

It’s also hard work to start sharing with an existing club to use their facilities. Don’t be surprised if there is a massive knee-jerk reaction to you entering and using the other club’s rooms. This could be your biggest hurdle and it can be disheartening to the point of making you want to pack it in, but just try to stay calm, stick at it and work through it. Reassure them that you will maintain and keep their rooms pristine and that you’re not there to take over. Don’t be easily pushed over – some people make it hard in the hope you will but if you really want that site, and if everyone else agrees, then fight for in a respectful way.

Another hurdle is knowing where to turn for doing the cut outs around bases for the field. Everything online is specific to what’s available in America so its not overly helpful, plus most things online discuss how to maintain and don’t discuss building from scratch. As examples, stuff like depth of scorier, what type of drainage and overall depth of cut-out and so on.

What are some of the things you would have done differently if you had your time again?

It’s hard to say. The only thing may be to try and have a committed committee set up and ready to go, with all the documents for incorporation in and signed on the sly (so to speak), and then once you’re incorporated to start advertising. From there get people who are keen to sign registration form at come and try days, and then get immediately onto grants. Incorporation can take up to 5 weeks and that is paramount for everything: bank account, grants, being able to be a club in general. None of this can be official without it.

What are you now focusing on as a club to make sure you’re going to be around in the long-term?

To ensure longevity you must have a junior program. Hit up schools as much as you can. The hardest part for me is living in Melbourne and driving back and forth. The best thing to get juniors is to try and involve school Physical Education teachers. I have one currently signed up to play and he is able to speak to kids directly and introduce them to the game at a school level and is coaching them at trainings. Also, make sure the facility details are up and running and in good order for next lot of committee members, so they can walk in and have it all there, ready to go.

Have you tracked the amount of time and money you’ve spent personally and corporately and how much is that (only if you’re ok with sharing that detail)?

I have a company vehicle so I’m very lucky that petrol has not cost me, but it’s a matter of opinion: what is your time with your family worth? If you try go it alone from the get go it’s hectic and family does miss out. I would estimate that if I was to pay for fuel and charge for hours and phone bills and such it would easily reach $5,000. There have been way too many hours to even try and figure out, but if I could put a basic approximation on it, probably hundreds.

What were the biggest costs, and where did you make your biggest savings?

Great question! If you are to get professional fencing companies to do back nets, it will cost between $22k and $44k. These quotes do not include footings being dug or any other permits organised. That is all on you. I have been lucky as I have an engineer and a draftsman playing for us who have drawn up CAD designs to spec and the engineer can help us organise once we start constructing. This has kept our costs under $10k for materials which is the maximum that council grants will outlay. That costing also includes all timber and sheet metal for our dugouts. The earlier quotes from fencing companies do not provide any of that either. In short: the more you can do as a club on your own the better off you will be.

Another expensive outlay is uniforms – suppliers tend to give the impression that they care but are there to make money regardless of what they say. I shopped around for a long time comparing supplier to supplier, and have saved a massive amount on uniforms by using a company called ASA (All Sports Apparel) – Naomi there is amazing! I contacted them in the morning and had sent her all the ideas I had by lunch time, and by 6 o’clock that night she had designed professionally all my uniform requirements and had provided all sizing and costing. Their pricing is similar to one other supplier in Melbourne but her service is second to none and she was always trying to help me keep costs to a minimum due to a start up club. Her designs were spot on, and she was even able to improve on some of the designs which was great. Keeping costs down is imperative, with fees costing quite a bit and with the addition of equipment and uniforms, a first year player has to outlay anywhere from $600 dollars upwards, so be mindful that you will need to do some homework.

Now that you’re heading into your first season, how does it feel looking back to the start?

It still doesn’t seem real as yet because we have not taken the field but once we’re out there as a team, in an area that has never had one before, it could be quite emotional. I will finally see something for all the hard work that’s been done. The next big emotional roller-coaster will be our first home game in the second half of the season on our home ground. Can’t wait!