15 January 2019

"The best time I have ever had playing baseball" - throwback with former Canberra Bushranger Dave Simpson

| Lachlan Roberts
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Dave Simpson (far left) at the Bushrangers reunion in December. Photos: Supplied.

If ever a kid was destined to play baseball, Dave Simpson was. It was evident from the moment he was able to utter his first words: ‘mum’, ‘dad’, ‘out’ and ‘safe’. From the day he was able to hold a baseball, he was seen playing catch in the backyard with his dad.

“When I was born, my dad played baseball, even though he wasn’t very good at it but he loved the sport,” Simpson said. “From the moment I was born I had a baseball glove and ball placed in my hand and my dad encouraged me to play baseball.

“I started playing when I was 6 or 7 years old and fell in love with the game. So I have my father to thank for my career.”

Simpson’s 10-year baseball career in the Australian Baseball League had its fair share of ups and downs. He won a championship with the Melbourne Reds and was even one of the starting pitchers for the now defunct Canberra Bushrangers during the two seasons in the nation’s capital.

“When I was offered the opportunity to play in Canberra I took it with both hands because I still thought I had something to give to baseball and the ABL,” he said. “So I packed my bags and moved to Canberra. I didn’t hit my peak until I was in my late 20s so I probably pitched my best during the two seasons in Canberra.

“To be honest, we weren’t a great baseball team. We lost more games than we won but the comradery we built up at the club was second to none. It was the best time I have ever had playing baseball.”

A snippet of a Bushranger match program from 1993.

Simpson returned to Canberra for the Bushrangers reunion on the 29 December, where he caught up with his former teammates, most of whom he had not spoken to for 25 years.

“It was like we caught up with each other six months ago and the comradery was still there and that is what I remember most fondly about my time in Canberra,” he said with a smile.

After only two seasons in the league, the Bushrangers folded due to heavy financial losses and while their reign was short-lived, the club left a lasting legacy in Canberra, giving many Canberrans their first taste of baseball and inspiring die-hard baseball fans to bring a team back to Canberra.

A lot has changed in the 25 years since the Bushrangers first rolled into town, with Simpson highlighting the power of the internet and social media on the league.

“When I was in Canberra, I used to work for 104.7 running the sports media there and I used to push the baseball a lot. Even during the off-season, I talked about who we were recruiting and how pre-season was going,” he recalled.

Canberra Bushrangers team photo from 1993.

“Now, you look at social media, there is no end to the publicity about baseball in Canberra and it is attracting a younger audience to the sport.

“I wish we had it back then because I think we would have been a lot better and we would have a lot more exposure.”

One mainstay in the Canberra baseball scene has been long-time Canberran and die-hard sports fan Richard Rolfe, who sponsored the Bushrangers during their two seasons and now the Canberra Cavalry.

Rolfe said he was proud to be a supporter of the Canberra Bushrangers and Canberra Cavalry.

“I love my sport, and I had a lot of good times at the Bushrangers games,” Mr Rolfe said. “When I heard the Cavalry wanted to mark the 25th anniversary of the Bushrangers’ arrival in Canberra, I couldn’t wait to help out.

“I love the black and teal caps and the famous pinstripes and seeing the Cavalry wear those jerseys this Thursday will be a great trip down memory lane.”

The Canberra Cavalry are hosting a Throwback Thursday night during their season finale series against the Perth Heat, where they will once again wear the Canberra Bushrangers uniforms. Don’t miss out on a chance to win a Canberra Bushrangers prize pack, which includes two tickets to the game and a retro Bushrangers jersey and cap.

Canberra Cavalry vs Perth Heat Game 1
MIT Ballpark
Thursday 17 Jan, 7 pm


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