Our very own Brisbane Bandits have won the ABL Championship the last three years in a row and are poised to win a fourth, in a competition that now includes a team from Korea and New Zealand.
The Bandits are led by Brisbane born, David ‘Dingo’ Nilsson, a retired, professional Australian baseball player; who was Australia’s first ever Major League Baseball All-Star, having played with the Milwaukee Brewers over a seven-year span. Nilsson’s extensive knowledge of the game and his professional experience are critical factors in shaping this group of athletes’ ability to achieve success through technical excellence.
The team’s consistent success is directly linked to its core group of local Brisbane athletes, who are complemented by professional, ‘import’ players from Asia and The United States of America.
This well-balanced collection of players, together with their impressive coaching staff, is what has made the Brisbane Bandits unstoppable over the last three seasons.
This past season not only marked some impressive achievements for the team, but for individual players as well.
Local Brisbane player, David ‘Goofy’ Sutherland, achieved a major accomplishment in his eight-season career with the Bandits. The crowd favourite celebrated his 300th game wearing the black and yellow, becoming the first player in ABL history to reach this impressive feat. Sutherland reveals, “When I was a kid, this is the team I wanted to play for. It seems like yesterday I started playing for the Bandits. It’s been a lot of fun.” Sutherland was also the team hero in the semi-final series against The Melbourne Aces after hitting a walk-off home-run, pushing the team through to the Championship Series against the Canberra Cavalry: A truly incredible season for this well-loved player.
This past season also marked a celebratory moment for Brisbane born player, Ryan Searle. The star closing pitcher broke the modern ABL saves record with thirty-six career saves. Searle has been an important part of the squad throughout his eight-season span with the Bandits. Of those eight years he has been the team’s full time closer for three. Searle is currently playing in Canada after signing with the Québec Capitales for the 2018 Can-Am League season.
Bandits import player and San Francisco Giants utility, TJ Bennett, opens up about how he felt coming to Brisbane “I have had the opportunity to be a part of the Bandits for a couple of different seasons, so coming into a tight knit team hasn’t been difficult because I feel like I was a part of building that close team. I understand that the Aussies have been playing together since they were young kids, and they were very welcoming when I first joined. The guys are great as long as you show that you are for the team, they let you right in.”
TJ Bennett and Donald Lutz shared an impressive moment last season when they both equalled the ABL home-run record with an impressive sixteen home-runs each. Bennett reveals, “Any time you get to be mentioned in any type of record for anything it is a privilege and an honor. This season was a blast going back and forth with Lutz all season long hitting home runs. He’s had an amazing career and I learned a lot from him that I was able to apply this ABL season.”
The Brisbane Bandits also made headlines by bringing on board the first female coach in ABL history to their coaching line-up. State and national baseball champion, Lisa Norrie, was brought into the team as an Assistant Coach for the 2017/2018 season. Norrie reveals, “It was really exciting to be hands-on and amongst it all. I thought I would be observing more, and just learning, but I got the opportunity to participate in on-field coaching as well as training sessions; it was a great season.”
The Australian Baseball League is continually expanding and this season is no exception. The league has now moved into a franchise model, with licensing agreements confirmed for the six founding teams. Additional teams from New Zealand and South Korea will be added to the league to expand and develop the future of the Australian Baseball League.
Brisbane Bandits CEO, Mark Ready, was announced as the principle owner of the Brisbane Bandits mid this year.
Mark sat down to discuss his new role with Brisbane Athlete.
Mark, what changes are on the horizon for the Bandits now that the ABL has moved to a franchise model?
This season is the most exciting season for me so far. With the expansion to eight teams we see the league dividing into two conferences. This means we get Auckland in the eastern conference to play against. Every time we play them it will be like an international event. It’s exciting to head across the Tasman and play in our sister city and have the New Zealand team play on our home soil.
As the principle owner of the team, what is your long term vision for the Brisbane Bandits?
Being a long-time friend of the Republic of China means that we will be turning our eyes north to Taiwan harder than ever.
More players, more interaction, as we see this as our market.
It’s a personal passion to bring our two countries closer together in any way possible, and I believe with baseball we have a unique opportunity to use it as a cultural, economic, and friendship bridge.
There are not too many other Australian sports that have such an international ability. We want to awaken the Taiwanese baseball fans, so that in their off-season there is a top quality league playing with Taiwanese superstars in the same time-zone, just an eight hour plane flight away. Last season we had a few large groups who jumped on the direct flights from Taipei to Brisbane for the weekend to watch Taiwan’s biggest baseball star Ngayaw Ake playing for Brisbane.
With three championships in a row and a host of other records along the way, what are you going to create for Brisbane in this coming season?
This year, ‘We are Brisb4ne’. The fourth championship is what we want.
This season we have had time to ponder the success we have achieved and above all else we’ve come to understand that the city of Brisbane has given us so much love, support, financial help, and trust, that this year we are dedicating our season to the city. We are so much more than just a baseball team, we are the heart and soul of that undying Brisbane spirit. We owe this city so much: it’s our home, our roots are deep, and our blood is in the soil here.
The 2018/2019 season is set to begin in November 2018 and run through until February 2019.
To become a member of the Brisbane Bandits, or to find out more information on game times, season passes, and how to meet your favourite players, head over to the Official Australian Baseball League website.
Becoming a member means securing your seat at every home game. Various levels of membership are available to cater to your needs. Games are broadcast live on YouTube at ABLtv.com.
You can also follow the team on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to keep up to date with player and coach interviews, and all things Brisbane Bandits.
Get involved Brisbane; get amongst your team. The Brisbane Bandits are shaping the future of baseball in Australia and this season is for you!
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