Updated 11:15 am – The Canberra Cavalry will miss the opening round of the Australian Baseball League season in Perth tonight (18 December) after changing COVID-19 restrictions meant not enough players would be eligible to fly to Western Australia.
The team had been loaned four players from the Brisbane Bandits and Sydney Blue Sox just to enable them to field a side for round one.
Five of the Cavs’ American imports were already unavailable while waiting for their two-week quarantine period to end after travelling from the US.
Cavalry director Dan Amodio said this morning it was extremely disappointing to not be able to fly the make-shift side to WA.
“The changes to COVID restrictions imposed late last night means only two or three of our guys were actually eligible to go to Perth.
The Australian Baseball League is expected to update the season schedule later today.
9:30am – Some team members of the Lifeline Canberra Cavalry will meet each other for the first time when they arrive in Perth today (18 December) for the opening round of the Australian Baseball League (ABL) season.
It’s been a pre-season that has tested the tenacity of the Cavalry lineup – a player roster that was only finalised this week. It proved a nightmare for the most hardened of sports administrators who have had to juggle imports from America with quarantine requirements and a changing schedule.
But Cavalry director Dan Amodio said there has never been this much anticipation ahead of an ABL season.
“The fact that we’re going to have a full roster and a full slate of games happening is so exciting and such a relief. It’s made our job as owners of this game to bring baseball to the people hard, as there were times this year when it wasn’t going to be possible,” Mr Amodio told Region Media this week.
“We got here and we’ve got our international players here safely which is a real testament to what the league and the group of teams have accomplished collectively.”
The ABL will run a shortened 24-game season, with the Cavs’ opening four-game series against Perth Heat from 18-20 December. They play a two-game home series against Melbourne Aces on 26-27 December before facing the Sydney Blue Sox in six home and away games between 28 December and 3 January.
This will include a New Year’s Eve game at the Narrabundah Ballpark that is expected to be a bonanza for fans and players.
“The New Year’s Eve game will be a great opportunity for us to get together as a community and have a really nice celebration. It will be a very special event on the Cavalry calendar,” Mr Amodio said.
Team manager Keith Ward said there was plenty to look forward to for fans, despite the challenges of getting on the field.
The Cavs will have American power-hitter Tucker Nathans released from quarantine a day before their first game after he was able to make the trip earlier than anticipated.
However, they will be without Zach Wilson, infield recruit Mikey Reynolds, experienced Major League Baseball starter Shawn Morimando, and Toronto prospects Samad Taylor and Chavez Young who will still be in quarantine but available for selection post-round one.
Ward said it was not ideal but he was confident Canberra could avoid starting the season on the back foot.
“We’re renowned for slow starts. Typically we’ve struggled in that first series for whatever reason, but we’ve always been able to regroup and get back on track and refocus on the task at hand,” Ward said.
“There’s enough talent there for us to be able to compete and if we do enough things right in the key moments throughout the course of each game, I still feel we can come out with our fair share of wins.”
The Cavs have also been boosted by the loan of former Cincinnati Reds professional Donald Lutz who played in the Cavs’ foundation season in 2010 before moving to the Brisbane Bandits. Lutz will again return to Canberra as a power-hitter and high-performance manager.
Other players like Zach Wilson have had to improvise with fitness routines while in quarantine. He has been powerlifting hotel bed mattresses despite the Cavs’ best efforts to organise exercise equipment.
“We tried so hard to get these guys some exercise equipment,” said Mr Amodio. “We called gyms and tried to get exercise equipment for rent but everyone was in the same boat. We couldn’t find anything so it’s been great to see these guys improvising to stay in shape.
“But this weekend, some of the team will meet their new teammates at the field for the first time in Perth this week. In any other year, it would be the craziest thing to ever happen but this year it’s just another chapter.
“Hopefully we can get our mascot, Sarge, on a plane to Perth too, as I know he’s itching to get back to his antics.”