The contrast of a classic American pastime lowered onto an Australian landscape can be jarring for the uninitiated. But we know that there’s something uniquely beautiful about the way the afternoon glow and the nearby rattle of Werribee train line sits alongside the vibrant orange and green of Melbourne Ballpark’s baseball diamond.
And the crowd echoes this diversity: the oppositional colours usually seen at sports games are instead a bouquet of team jerseys and caps representing the swathe of international players that make up the World All-Stars team.
The names of Knights, Titans and Warriors stand out on the backs of fans with hot dogs, pies or ‘Live in Levi’s®’ foam fingers in their hands. One diehard fan of the resident Melbourne Aces team stands at the front of the bleachers, resplendent in an
oversized red cape and juggling a range of banners, leading the punters in proAustralia chants.
The afternoon heat keeps the audience cosy as Melbourne band and friends of Levi’s®, Kingswood, take to the diamond to pound out tracks from their recent debut LP Microscopic Wars. The four-piece open with their single ‘She’s My Baby’, an infectious stadium rocker.
It all meshes with the vibrant tones of the pitch and rich smells from nearby food vans, and one thing becomes clear: an authentic evening of baseball was underway before a bat had even scraped the bases.
Watching the band finish their set and walk, dipped in Levi’s® denim, off the baseball diamond, it really does feel as though the cornerstones of American culture have come to the shores of Australia. “Who’s going for the Aussies?” an announcer asks. The crowd roars their response.
“It’s my first time playing music on a baseball pitch,” Kingswood lead singer Fergus Linacre tells us after the band’s set. “I used to play baseball back when I was 12. I made the Victorian team for under-13s once,” he laughs.
Behind us, a poster of legendary Red Sox left fielder Ted Williams is framed next to a television tuned to the game about to take place. The teams are warming up in the outfield as the 7.30 pm playtime draws nearer.
“When I used to play baseball, I’d see mum right behind the catcher and I’d say ‘Don’t stand there, Mum,’” Fergus tells us. “Now I’m performing out there and she’s here watching me!”
One Machine guitarist Steve Smyth walks out onto the field, his guitar bouncing the afternoon sun into the crowd, to sing the Australian national anthem. On each side of him the teams stand in rows, staring forward as Smyth’s whisky-soaked vocals reverberate through the audience.
The Australian team and the All-Stars take their positions on the field, the audience applauding as the opposing grey and white head to the batter’s box and mound respectively.
That first crack as Tampa Bay Rays’ Tommy Coyle’s bat strike’s white against the ball ignites the audience and the opening bars of Kanye West’s ‘Power’ is drowned out by fans eager to support the All-Stars, the automatic underdogs on the Australian turf.
The hype just wasn’t meant to last, though, as Coyle slides a split-second too late into first base as the ball hits the Australian first baseman’s glove. The call of “Out!” resonates throughout the crowd.
But by the top of the eighth inning, the All-Stars team has established a comfortable 7–3 lead, much to the silent concern of the mostly Australian crowd. The air has grown brisk and the bleachers are filled with hunched heads and jacketed silhouettes
The power of a squad hand-picked across baseball giants like the USA and Japan is presenting itself as a clear advantage, despite being the away team.
The wind begins to die down as the inning hits the bottom with team Australia taking to the bat. A burst of inspiration in their offensive is clear as the ball soars over the outfield, out past the Levi’s® banners and beyond, and David Kandilas rounds the
third and scores.
It’s the first of a massive eight runs in a single inning, cementing an outrageous 11–8 lead for Australia.
It’s a margin, that, going into the ninth, just can’t be closed. And it’s secured them the evening’s win in a wild upset.
The crowd erupts in patriotic chants, while a handful of kids take the opportunity to sneak under the netting, scoring themselves some stray baseballs at the edge of the field.
To find out more about the ABL and when you can catch the next game visit – https://web.theabl.com.au