With the conclusion of the seventh season of the revamped Australian Baseball League, the time has come for the Bandits to trade in their uniforms and join a new baseball franchise. For 12 of the Brisbane Bandits, proudly presented by WellDog, who suited up for the 2017 Claxton Shield Championship team, that transition lands them on American soil, where baseball is pegged as America's greatest pastime.
Seven Bandits enter spring training under a contract with a Major League Baseball organisation and are due to report to their respective clubs over the next five weeks. Tommy Milone, David Rodriguez and Kevin Padlo departed Australia last week and have just two weeks of down time before they are due to report to spring training for the Tampa Bay Rays organisation.
Fellow American, T.J. Bennett, will report to the San Francisco Giants organisation for assignment, and former Cincinnati Red, Donald Lutz, will arrive to spring training in Arizona as a free agent, hoping to earn a contract with an organization before the commencement of the 2017 season.
Bandits fans will also see a few local Australian products make the jump overseas. Sam Holland has already reported for spring training with the Los Angeles Angels and Connor MacDonald will report to the Houston Astros at the beginning of April. Aaron Whitefield will follow suit, as the Minnesota Twins prospect is set to report to spring training after he finishes his commitments with Team Australia in the World Baseball Classic.
What exactly is spring training? In essence, spring training is a combination of practices and exhibition games before the start of the regular season. Spring training allows players to compete and try out for roster spots, as well as give established players the opportunity to play competitively before the season commences. At the conclusion of spring training, players in the minor league system are assigned to a full-season roster to begin the regular season. That said, if players are given a spring training extension, they will play in more games and training sessions. Come late June, those players are either assigned to rookie leagues, "short season" Class A ball or they are released.
The dynamic of spring training is unique as many athletes' futures are unwritten. Nearly all of the prospects won't know what team within the franchise they are representing until the end of spring training.
Major League Baseball may be the biggest and highest level of baseball in the United States, but it isn't the only option for competitive play. Many athletes pursue a career in the Independent League, which is composed of eight different leagues of competition.
Zac Treece, Rick Teasley and Ty'Relle Harris are contracted with organisations within the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, which is regarded as the highest level of professional baseball other than Major League Baseball.
The 2017 regular season marks the Atlantic League debuts for Zac Treece and Rick Teasley. Treece spent seven years in the Frontier League, most recently with the River City Rascals in O'Fallon, Missouri. The right-hander is making the move to New York, representing the Long Island Ducks. After spending the last three seasons with the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League, Teasley will suit up with the Somerset Patriots this season. Ty'Relle Harris returns for his third season with the York Revolution of the Atlantic League.
As for right-hander Kramer Champlin, a contract hasn't officially been signed for the upcoming season. Champlin spent the last two seasons with the Traverse City Beach Bums of the Frontier League.
The Brisbane Bandits may be on different paths throughout the world, but the central message remains the same: the growth of the sport.
As the athletes continue to grow and expose the success of the Australian Baseball League, they'll carry the memories from their time in Australia, and even more, the gratification of a professional championship.