Kingsley Collins (1 April 2016)
Another winter baseball season has crept up on us all too quickly, with a full round of GBA senior games scheduled for the weekend of 9 and 10 April. Junior competitions are expected to start up shortly after that, with dates and details to be notified.
While some player movements are still be resolved, the GBA Board is pleased to report the entry of thirty-five sides to five senior grades – an overall increase of one team on last season.
Seven teams have entered for A Grade, eight for A Reserve, six for B Grade, eight for B Reserve and six for C Grade.
Guild and East Belmont Saints will field an association high of five senior teams apiece, while Werribee and Mounties have both increased their winter presence to four senior teams, joining Deakin with that number. Lara and Bellarine have again entered three sides, while long-standing A Grade club Bacchus Marsh will be rebuilding with just a solitary side in B Grade. Colac, Alfredton and Corio are again expected to be highly competitive with two teams each in the lower grades.
The senior season has been drawn into seventeen rounds, with the bye necessitating a number of Saturday/Sunday double-headers to ensure that A Grade teams all play sixteen games prior to finals that will start in mid-August.
Winning the past five A Grade premierships, league powerhouse Guild will be looking to break its own record at the highest level under returning Manager Jason Landthaler, although it is going to be tough early on with the anticipated absence of pitching ace Brad Egan as he recovers from a groin injury. Nevertheless, the club continues to build a strong junior programme that will ensure playing depth into this season, and for those to come.
Runner-up last time after a strong campaign that took it right to the season finale, Deakin will again be led by Leigh Holmes and is already at short odds to make the post-season – especially with the additions of Shannon Hornstra and Tayler Rowe from Bacchus Marsh, along with Baycats utility Rudi Jaramillo, who will further strengthen the Blues pitching and offence.
Third in 2015 and seemingly always thereabouts, Bellarine has lost Jonathon Lowe (to Werribee) and may be without versatile veteran Chris Bramwell, who was injured in an accident late last year. While Wayne Visser will again provide from-the-front leadership, his club is likely to also be without Kris Kieffel, although the Bears have picked up Lachlan Medew and may even see game time from former Lara Wildcat Cameron Brown.
Re-appointing Justin Charles as Club Coach over the summer break, East Belmont Saints will doubtless be imbued with the big man’s competitive spirit, although his options may be limited at this level should rumours be accurate about key players Josh Lee, Jordan Isbister and Charles Thompson heading elsewhere for their baseball winter.
Perennial finalists - with four A Grade pennants in the past thirteen seasons but knocked out in the Elimination Final in 2015 – Lara Wildcats have been talked down at the start of most recent seasons, yet they keep managing to be among the contenders. With the club in a clear rebuilding mode, Lara has let little away about their prospects this season, although they may be missing a handful of players heading to Werribee and may again be calling on Stuart Forbes to manage a team that is not likely to have fraternal pitching ace Cameron Forbes back in action until late season.
Taking the step up to A Grade for the first time in a decade for 2015, Mounties YC did exceptionally well in winning five games and being ultra-competitive in several others. Under the tutelage of incoming President George Davidson and with Stuart Jeffery expected to have a key management role, the Mounties have challenged themselves by entering four senior teams. Now in a close relationship with the Ballarat City summer club, the Mounts shape as a real improver with the inclusion of key Brewers personnel and the projected return of either (or both) Troy and Scott Malthouse.
Speaking of likely improvers, Werribee has stepped up from A Reserve (to replace Bacchus Marsh) and it will be buoyed by the return of Jon Lowe, who has taken up the coaching role at a progressive club that has retained most of its summer squad that did so well in Summer League Division Two. The club - now with four senior teams - has recently secured council funding for a serious infield upgrade on the main diamond that will be completed over the next several weeks.
While the senior fixtures have been posted and have been forwarded to clubs, officials should remain alert to any changes to scheduling that might be required in the weeks to come (including adjustments to the Werribee home schedule that may involve Sunday games). For any specific or one-off changes to suit a particular schedule, clubs should negotiate between themselves before submitting for approval by Don Stephens and the Pennant Committee.
With the assistance of GBA affiliate clubs, we will again aim to provide website reporting, images and details on A Grade games and timely updating of all senior results as they become available. If your club has any news that it would like mentioned, any story ideas that it would like followed up or any images that can be used, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or telephone 0488 735297.
Although it serves our purposes for the time being, the current IMG website system is less than satisfactory. We will be aiming to relocate to another, far better service either during this winter season or shortly afterwards.
We further encourage players, officials and supporters to engage positively on the GBA Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/GeelongBaseballAssociation/).
Oh, and for those who have not done so already, please connect with and consider taking out membership of Australian Baseball Alumni, which is chaired by former Geelong playing legend Brett Ward - and is supported by other wonderful baseball people - in its endeavours to provide promotion, coverage and funding for Australian baseball programmes.
Best wishes to all for another enjoyable and successful season of winter baseball! Whatever your level of participation, or whatever may be your personal or club goals, may 2016 be another ripper winter of baseball for the GBA and its affiliate clubs.
Kingsley Collins (Webmaster)