Questions and answers with Ian Maurice (pictured above) who is an Australian actor, singer, radio host, entertainer and television presenter. He owned the Sydney Blues franchise for a number of seasons during the previous Australian Baseball League
1. (NH) How did you come to be involved in baseball and what was it about the sport which appealed to you?
(IM) Back in the early 1980s I was working for Channel Nine and they sent me to the States to interview some Australian players who were part of the Los Angeles Dodgers Organisation. At the time Craig Shipley and Adrian Meagher were both Minor League players but were making good progress within the organisation and were attending Spring Training at Vero Beach, Florida. I was absolutely knocked out by the enormity of Spring Training and also the extensive media facilities and media presence. The Dodgers made me feel very welcome and I met broadcaster Vin Scully and field manager Tommy Lasorda.
(IM) When I returned to Sydney I decided to play baseball in a weekend competition, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I noticed at that time there was lots of junior teams but not as many for adults and hoped this could change in the future.
(IM) Some years later with the emergence of the first Australian Baseball League I became involved with the Parramatta Patriots. Initially I leased the team from the owners who were the Auburn Orioles and the following season I purchased the team renaming them the Sydney Blues, which was partly due to the Blues having an affiliation with Major League club the Toronto Blue Jays
2. (NH) Based on your work with the Sydney Blues what do you consider as some of your most memorable highlights?
(IM) Memorable highlights:
- Achieving an ABL record for the highest crowd attendance at a game, which was during the 1993-94 Championship Series at Parramatta Stadium, and there was over 13,000 people in attendance. The Brisbane Bandits later eclipsed this record though during their final home series of that version of the ABL
- Winning the 1995-96 ABL Championship. We weren't expected to be a front runner that season and the circumstances of us reaching the Championship Series was quite remarkable. The Perth Heat for all money looked set to be on their way to the Championship Series as they were ahead in the bottom of the last inning with two outs and it all came down to a dropped third strike, which allowed I think American import Anthony Sanders to reach base on the error. It seemed like an impossible situation but we scored the winning run and went on to win the ABL Championship against the Melbourne Reds
(IM) Achieving a sustainable business model:
- There wasn't enough television coverage of the sport and when some did arrive the camera work and production wasn't to a high standard. Compared to the quality of production in North America the two were very far apart
- The cost of flying players around the country and also their accommodation
- There wasn't enough revenue to sustain the league and I can't remember a single week where we didn't make a loss
- Sponsorship was also an issue and losing Pepsi as a major sponsor was a setback, although our team sponsor Pirtek went on to big things as a company and they are now an NRL team sponsor and also sponsor motor racing
(IM) Advice for the ABL:
- There were some disappointing times after the cessation of the previous ABL and one which comes to mind was when I was involved with baseball at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and the demands of international baseball officials. To begin with these officials demanded a lot of special treatment for themselves and even costs for family members, which was inappropriate, and they even wanted reclining seats for games. It should have been all about the players and the Olympic experience not representatives of baseball taking all they could
- Baseball from the top down has a lot of issues and people pushing their own agendas, which isn't good for the sport. I've seen this with the local league my son has played in as some teams do a lot better than others when it comes to support from governing bodies
- The ABL needs to be far more aggressive with their media management. I do sports reports for 4BC and I haven't received any results or related press releases from them. Most people in Brisbane couldn't tell you how the Bandits went last year or who won the last Championship Series. That said though when a teenager signs a professional contract to play in the States such achievements receive some media attention here
- When it comes to baseball you bring the game to Australia, not America to Australia, and make an Australian version of the game
(IM) I'm quite heavily committed with my work at 4BC and I have my own entertainment business, but I love the game and I'd love to help
Please refer to these links to keep up to date with Ian Maurice on Twitter or check out his website
For all my baseball themed books please refer to these links:
Aussies World Baseball Classic Experiences from 2006 to 2017 and also available from United States Amazon
Aussie Baseball Musings and also available from United States Amazon
Aussies in the Majors and also available from United States Amazon
Boomerang Baseball and also available from United States Amazon
The American Dream: From Perth to Sacramento and also available from United States Amazon