One of the Australian Baseball League’s newest teams will be sitting out a second straight season as COVID-related problems arise yet again.
The Auckland Tuatara have made the early call ahead of the 2021/22 season due to the constant uncertainty around travel and to give the league enough time to set a new schedule and structure.
The organisation says they have the backing of the ABL and the seven fellow clubs with Auckland Tuatara chairman Noel Davies confirming the tough decision is the right decision.
“It is an incredibly difficult decision to come to,” Davies said.
“It really hurt the franchise not playing last season, but in hindsight it proved the sensible thing to do. It meant our players were not locked down in Australia and it protected ourselves from financial risk.
“Because we wanted to play in the league, we waited until very late last year to make that tough call and that put pressure on the rest of the league.
“This time around we all agreed we needed to make a strong call early and that is what we have done.
“We are committed to playing in the ABL and we know that by taking this step and going through this short-term pain we will allow ourselves to be able to compete in the longer term.”
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Baseball Australia president David Hynes commended the Tuatara’s capacity to make a call on their season and have the intentions of the benefit of the league itself.
“The Auckland Tuatara are a very key part of the ABL and we would love for them to have been able to play this season,” Hynes said.
“We needed to confirm a schedule and that is very difficult for the Tuatara to commit to given the uncertainty presented with COVID outbreaks presenting a risk to the wellbeing of athletes and staff, coupled with the commercial risk to the ABL, Tuatara and ABL licensees through games being cancelled and rescheduled as was the case with last season.
“We applaud the early decision, and we know it is the safest option for everyone.
“We saw what they are capable of in 2019-20 and we look forward to seeing the Tuatara return to the league next season and beyond.”
Auckland made a late call last year on their involvement in the 2020/21 ABL season, one month out from the start date of the new campaign.
The Auckland Tuatara entered the ABL in the 2018/19 season when the league expanded from six teams to eight with the inclusion of Geelong-Korea also.
In their first season, the Tuatara finished fourth in the Northeast Division and seventh overall but came back stronger the next season, finishing first in their respective division.
Advancing to the semi-finals, the Tuatara fell in two games against eventual Champions, the Melbourne Aces. Hosting the second game of the series, Auckland fans flocked to North Harbour Stadium with over 4,200 spectators in attendance.
Davies foresees the potential to still see Auckland participate in baseball events during the summer, now looking at focusing on the community impact at the organisation
“We obviously need to iron out some detail, but the plan will be to deliver baseball to our fans this summer,” Davies told.
“We are already planning on some facility upgrades, creating better pathways to bring young Kiwi talent through to the ABL and putting on the best show we can given the circumstances.”
Davies is spurred on by the fact New Zealanders want professional baseball in the country and the Tuatara’s participation is welcomed by all involved in the league. . He also hasn’t ruled out some non-competition matches for the Tuatara.
“The other franchises have been great and there is already talk about playing some non-competition games should the COVID situation allow,” Davies says.
“The good thing is we; the league and other clubs are all in this together and we will get through it in a better position by working together.”
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