• WORDS Claire Bradshaw

HIT A HOME RUN or Just Have Fun in 2020!

Did you know that Newcastle has a thriving baseball community? A lot of people might not – it’s quite the hidden gem on the local sporting scene. But across Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland and Port Stephens, over 65 senior and junior teams are regularly hitting the field in competitions run by the Newcastle Baseball Association.

Established way back in 1932, the Association ‘thrives on family and community values’, providing a positive environment for kids and adults alike to learn and enjoy the sport of baseball.

From the Mayfield Boomerangs to the Maitland Mavericks, the Belmont Seagulls to the Nelson Bay Strikers, teams are located far and wide, coming together between April and September each year for graded competitions. Games are played on Saturdays and Sundays on a home and away basis. Adults can compete in Major League, Double-A, Minor League and Senior Women’s League categories, so there are opportunities for everyone – from professional players with their sights set high, through to those merely seeking a fun way to keep fit in a team environment.

The premier senior competition is Major League, played each Sunday and incorporating first and second-grade games. Currently, teams from Belmont, Mayfield, Charlestown, Toronto and Wallsend compete in Major League. With these teams including players from the Australian National team and the Australian Baseball League, as well as former professional and college baseballers, it’s no surprise that a high level of play is sustained in this competition.

The Association’s other senior competitions are just as popular, with a grade to suit all skill levels. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth-grade categories present development opportunities for both male and female emerging players, as well as playing opportunities for those who are just interested in a social team sport.

For younger players, the Association offers one of the best junior entry sporting programs in Newcastle. There’s T-Ball for the under8's – an introductory form of baseball, where each batter hits the ball off a ‘tee’ adjusted to their height instead of it being pitched by a player. For kids under ten, there’s a game called Zooka, where the ball is ‘pitched’ from a special pitching machine. These junior entry options are ideal for introducing kids to the sport of baseball, giving them the chance to learn in a non-competitive atmosphere and setting them on a pathway of development towards Little League and beyond.

For kids who show a particular interest or talent, parents might consider enrolment in the Association’s Junior Development Program. Open to children aged eight to twelve, the program involves ten weeks of special development for aspiring baseballers, teaching younger athletes how to train effectively and develop their skills. The program has been running for over five years, with many players going on to represent Newcastle and New South Wales in baseball or join the Hunter Academy of Sport.

The Association also offers a representative program, providing talented junior athletes with the opportunity to play at a higher level, while continuing to develop their skills with a fully accredited coaching team. Junior representative players have the chance to play at state, national and even world series levels.

With so many options available for both junior and senior players, baseball is becoming an increasingly popular choice for families around the region. This is something the Association takes seriously – as their website pledges: ‘All support will be given to ensure a positive experience for the entire family’. Taking a scroll through the team shots on the website and Facebook page, you’ll see some very happy campers – kids and adults alike!

The Newcastle Baseball Association’s 2020 competitions commence late March. For further info about competitions, programs, clubs and registrations, visit www.newcastlebaseball.org.au, And to keep up-to-date with game results, photos and events, follow the Facebook page at Newcastle Baseball Association Inc.

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