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Monday, 9 February 2015
Page: 232


Mr WYATT (Hasluck) (18:30): I step up to the plate to talk about baseball and about the international opportunities that baseball offers Australia based in my electorate of Hasluck. Baseball is not just a sport; it is an international industry, and Australia is ready to step up to the plate. On the weekend 'Perth claim second consecutive shield' was the title of a story done by Nina Zimmerman:

ADELAIDE, 8 February - For the fourth time in five years, Perth reign supreme atop the pedestal of the Australian Baseball League. The Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat beat the Adelaide Bite, proudly presented by SA Power Networks, 12-5 in Sunday's third and final game of the ABL Championship Series presented by ConocoPhillips, to take home the Claxton Shield for the second consecutive season.

The series victory had historical implications beyond Perth taking home its fourth title in the five-year existence of the new ABL. With the win, Western Australia moved into a second-place tie with South Australia on the all-time Claxton Shield premiership list. The victory also came one night after Perth leveled the championship series with a tenth-inning win.

"We're a bunch of fighters," Tim Kennelly said. "We've done that for years, so it was good to bounce back with that win."

But what is fascinating is that the media coverage of baseball, which is a growing sport in Australia, is very limited. If it had the same coverage as AFL or test matches, or some of the other sports, then its place within the Australian sporting arena would be as significant as that held by cricket in particular. And I hope that in the future baseball holds its place. It is also interesting that Australia has played in five significant Asian baseball cups. We were semi-finalists in 1971, 1975 and 1985. At Beijing in China we were a semi-finalist in 1991, and then again in 1993. But, again, the media coverage has not been tremendous.

I will start with some history and move on to some good old-fashioned bragging with plenty of baseball references throughout. Baseball took off on Australia's east coast and is believed to have been brought over by Americans during the Victorian gold rush in the 1850s. Miners would play baseball on the flat and dusty goldfields on their rest days. Still in goldfield country, the first reported organised teams were in Ballarat, Victoria, in 1857. While baseball is a summer sport in the USA, it was originally considered a useful off-season sport for Australian cricketers and was played during winter, including all the way through the First World War.

The Australian Baseball League, or the ABL, now plays in summer so the players can move between leagues in the Northern Hemisphere and in Australia. We have outstanding competitors who make the grade in the States and in the Asian circuit in Korea. When you are watching them when they are back, you notice the difference. And yet they are not seen in the media as heroes in their own right or given the coverage that we give prominent and eminent players in the two principal sports that we play in this nation.

Now I want to move to the West Australian coast, and the bragging. On Saturday, the Western Australian baseball team, the Perth Heat, defeated the South Australian team, the Adelaide Bite, to win the ABL championships for the fourth time in five seasons. That is an incredible feat for a state team to have taken for the fourth time. I know the competitors on the east coast were hoping that they would not win the series and that it would be taken by Adelaide. That is right, the Heat beat the Bite, making Perth the hottest Aussie baseball team as well as the hottest capital city.

As well as having the best baseball team in Australia, Perth also has the best baseball stadium in Australia. Perth Heat are based at Barbagallo Ballpark in my electorate of Hasluck. Barbagallo Ballpark was built in 2004 and expanded in 2007. It is based in the suburb of Thornlie in the south of Perth. It has a seating capacity of about 500 punters and standing room for 3,500 more. The ballpark has an enclosed members area, numbered seats and the best quality playing surface of any park in the nation. But it could be better. The Commonwealth and state governments have before them a proposal to turn Barbagallo Ballpark into a world-class stadium capable of hosting international events. Upgrading Barbagallo Ballpark is something I am fighting for in Hasluck in 2015. It would be a whole new ball game for Australia.

Let me talk you through the journey that would get us there. The pitch comes from Baseball WA, the organisation that runs the stadium and supports the successful Perth Heat. Baseball WA is a good pitcher and they put forward a good proposal. If the Commonwealth and state governments swing at this pitch we will get to first base, increasing the capacity of the stadium, the lighting and the quality of the field and the amenities at Barbagallo Ballpark. From there we would be able to make our way to second base, getting international teams from the big baseball countries like Japan, China, Korea and others in the world to play games in Australia. As the saying goes, if you build it, they will come. Along with them will come a stream of revenue-raising opportunities, including employment, sponsorship and international tourism. If Australia is getting the big teams in then we are getting the big crowds in. We will be well on the way to third base, which is the incredible health benefit of involving more Australians in sport, especially our kids.

One of the things I love about attending baseball games is the tradition of inviting all children who are at the park to run across the field at the beginning of the ninth inning. When I watched the semifinal match at Barbagallo in January, hundreds of children crossed the oval to the tune of Who Let The Dogs Out. I saw kids with a variety of fitness levels give their all to get across the 200-metre field. Not all these kids attending are spectators. They are encouraged to test out their own fitness and have a great time doing it.

This does not come out of left field on my part. Baseball is the fastest growing junior sport in Australia and it is one of the fastest growing sports across the board. Internationally, Australia is building a reputation as a heavy hitter. Over 360 Australian players have signed major league contracts overseas, not to mention those employed in the lucrative and highly regarded profession of umpiring. My colleague Steve Irons, the member from the neighbouring electorate of Swan and the chairman of the Parliamentary Friends of Sport, expressed his support for the Barbagallo Ballpark project in the chamber in June last year. With a modest investment from the Commonwealth, there is potential for a home run here, and I would say to the Minister for Health and Sport, the Hon. Sussan Ley, and to the state Minister for Sport and Recreation, Mia Davies, 'Batter up! Let's hit this one out of the park and leave a lasting legacy for Australia's sporting future.'

In finishing, I want to say that, given all the excitement of baseball and the hype and our players' success overseas, we get very little media coverage. I do not see channels 10, 9 or 7 covering the games that it has brought into the homes of families. It is certainly telecast to some 50 other countries who watch the game and enjoy it. What I hope to see in the future is that we have the type of coverage that will build the sport, encourage children out on the grounds and increase their level of fitness. It would be great to get the member opposite out there on the field and I would be quite happy to have the Hasluck Hitters take on your electorate in a pre-season game. But, seriously, the media needs to give this game the coverage it deserves because international competitors in any other sport are highly sought after. They play two seasons, one in our own country and one overseas.

I see the young people who take the pathway out of primary school, where they play tee-ball and softball, and move on to baseball. Some of the sporting scholarships I have awarded have been to young people who aspire to play for the Yankees and the Dodgers, or Korea because they see an opportunity to extend their capabilities and skills outside the country. I hope that the Australian media will pick up on the value and the importance of the game, and promote it in a way that encourages broader viewing. It would have been great to have watched the Perth Heat beat the Adelaide Bite live on commercial television. It was their fourth consecutive finals win out of five and it would have been fantastic to see it celebrated in that way.