World baseball challenge: the Australian Baseball League

In an attempt to occupy myself during these months void of the Orioles and Camden Yards as well as baseball and a batting practice as a whole, I have embarked on a challenge to ball hawk across the country without ever having to even leave the state.

I do not exactly remember what gave me the idea, but it came to me one day as I was longing for the left field bleachers. My plan was to acquire a baseball from each of the professional baseball leagues around the world while only paying my own postage and trading one of my many Major League baseballs.

To begin, I set my sights on the Australian Baseball League. It seemed to be one of the easier leagues to accomplish despite it being so far away. Of course, the reason for that is because of the shared language, something you will not find in a majority of the other leagues around the world.

My initial plan was to find an image of the baseball to assure that it had some sort of feature that would signify it as a ball used in the ABL. After finding an image that would assure me of its uniqueness, I would then pick a player in the ABL and send a letter addressed to the player (the ABL is currently in season) as well as an MLB baseball. In the letter I would explain why I wanted an ABL ball, and my hopes of him accepting my trade.

In failing to find a picture of the ball on Google (which, in a search just this moment, I found), I took to Twitter to tweet to a couple ABL teams. I did get a response, just not exactly what I wanted:

In a sense, the tweet did help a bit: knowing Rawlings made the ball means it must be of top quality, that it has to have some kind of distinguishing logo.

However, even though I now knew it was Rawlings-made, I still needed to know what the ball looked like before I took the risk and paid the international postage to send a letter to a random ABL player.

I remembered that I had a Twitter follower by the name of Daniel Clark, who runs Pen & Paper Sports, a sports website based in Australia that covers the Baltimore Orioles, the Baltimore Ravens and the Melbourne Aces, a team in the ABL.

With a greater chance for a response, I asked him if he knew what the ABL balls looked like:

Almost immediately, Daniel responded to me in a direct message, saying he had a ball from an ABL game and that he would email me a picture.

ABL ball emailThe picture showed that the ball was indeed Rawlings-made and looked very similar to the MLB baseball. Of course, the ABL ball has the ABL logo in place of the MLB one, and has “Official Ball Australian Baseball League” on the side opposite the sweet spot. Also, unlike the MLB ball that has the stamped signature of Commissioner Selig, the ABL ball has no such signature.

In short, it was unique, and I wanted one. I was ready to pick a young ABL player, write him a letter, and hope I got a ball in return.

I thanked Daniel for sending me the picture, and told him of my plan to obtain one.

To my surprise, he responded by saying that he had a few ABL balls but no MLB balls, and he would gladly swap.

With that, my first attempt in my own WBC (here meaning world baseball challenge) was looking successful. We exchanged addresses and mailed each other the baseballs.

photo (3)Since Daniel was so kind to help me out and is also an Orioles fan, I sent him two baseballs. The first ball (the one on the left in the picture) is a game-rubbed baseball that was given to me by an umpire after a game in (I believe) 2011. The second ball was a Camden Yards 20th anniversary commemorative baseball that the Orioles used during the 2012 season (and were also used for a little during BP In 2013).

The U.S. shipping was a little faster than Australia’s (go figure), so Daniel received the baseballs a few weeks before I got mine.

The ball Daniel sent was a foul ball hit by Melbourne Aces’ Justin Huber in Melbourne against the Adelaide Bite on November 9, 2012.

photo 1Huber, Australian-born, is actually a former MLB player who saw time in 72 games over the course of 5 seasons from 2005 to 2009 with the Royals, Padres and Twins. In 2012 as Melbourne’s DH, Huber hit only .220 with two home runs and ten RBIs in 38 games. His claim to fame may be that he hit his first career Major League home run off of Randy Johnson. He also spent some time playing in the Nippon League in Japan. He has played for Team Australia in the each of the three WBC’s.

Nonetheless, the ABL ball arrived in the mail yesterday, and I am genuinely excited to add it to my collection. It is especially exciting that the ball saw game action at a stadium more than 10,200 miles away from Camden Yards.

As for the rest of my WBC, I guess I have some more tracking to do.

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Do you own a ball from a professional league outside the United States and would like to trade for an official MLB baseball? Contact Tim Anderson either by leaving a comment below, or by email at tander11@students.towson.edu.

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