Time Out: Will footy players follow baseballers’ example?

FIRE up the hot-dog stand, bring out the organ and get out a good ol’ plug of chewin’ tobacco, America’s favourite pastime is coming to Australia.

Major League Baseball has announced it will bring the LA Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks to Australia, to launch the 2014 season with a three-game series in Sydney.

Despite a lot of people’s well-meaning efforts, baseball has never really taken off in these lands. 

I’m not exactly sure why it has not fully connected with us Aussies. Maybe it’s because during most matches nothing really happens for a long, long time. 

Players and teams get struck-out again and again, with no score registered and barely anyone even dinking the ball, let alone smacking it out of the park.

Then again, we are a nation of cricket watchers, so a lack of action shouldn’t really bother us. 

Baseball is the kind of thing I only ever watch when it’s about 11pm, footy season is over, cricket season is yet to begin, and even the Italian movie on Mussolini and the rise of fascism on SBS has failed me – so, this time of the year.

I sometimes enjoy the whole Americana-feel of the spectacle, the terrible pyjama-esque outfits which make even the fittest man look as though they need a good trip to Jenny Craig, and the coaches’ ridiculous, yet calmly-produced facial and hand gestures which supposedly convey messages to their players.

Everyone around them also looks so nonplussed while they are tugging at their ears, pointing at their eyebrows and grimacing profusely.

If I were to exhibit that behaviour on, say, a train, my fellow travellers would either a) move carriages; b) report me to the authorities; or c) tell all their friends about the crazy chick in carriage three, when really all I was trying to tell them was I was getting off at Kyneton, and my friend was picking me up from the station in her new green Nissan Micro.

What I also think Australians don’t get about baseball is how so many players have absolutely no loyalty to their clubs and move from team to team ad hoc. 

Free agency means players are able to move wherever the big money or the lure of a potential title chance may take them, and they certainly take the opportunity to get around.

For example, during one of these 11pm baseball-watching sessions, my dad became, and still is, rather obsessed with a left-handed pitcher most excellently named Randy Johnson, who played well into his 40s for six teams, including twice for the Diamondbacks.

No one seems to think that this is anything unusual, because six clubs is barely anything for a baseball player.

There have been a handful of players who have played for 12 teams, but in April this year Dominican pitcher Octavio Dotel became the first player to play for 13 clubs. 

Now that we’ve experienced our first AFL free-agency trade period, the question beckons – will free agency breed this lack of loyalty seen in baseball? 

It will be interesting to see where things head.

Thus far, Dale Kickett is the AFL clubhouse leader, with five teams. There are a handful who have played for four. 

But in a sport where, for its first 90 years at least, shifting down the road to get a kick labelled you forever a reject, they are true anomalies in the game.

The first period of free agency saw the biggest movement of players around clubs ever.

Are we entering a time where 2011 number-one draft pick Jonathan Patton ends his career with his seventh side with that newly-formed expansion franchise, the Yackandandah Yabbies, uniformed in Kmart all-in-one pyjamas?

I certainly hope not!


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